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NYSID News Blog

April 22, 2014

Bottles and Cans Become Dollars and Cents in Redemption Centers

Category: General — NYSID @ 1:49 pm

Reuse. Recycle. Rethink. It’s the mantra of the recycling movement, and several NYSID member agencies have taken these words to heart, creating jobs for New Yorkers with disabilities in the process.

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, we’ll provide a sampling of NYSID member agencies turning bottle and can redemption into business opportunities. Starting today and continuing through April, we’ll share their stories and photos across our social media platforms.

Each year, Earth Day –– April 22 –– marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The fight for a clean environment continues today, as the effects of climate change become more evident every day. To learn more, visit: http://www.earthday.org.

Workers at Hilltop Industries have enjoyed many happy returns since January 2012, when the private, not-for-profit vocational services offshoot of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming opened Hilltop Bottle and Can Return in Mount Morris.

The venture was part of Hilltop’s ongoing effort to offer eco-friendly services while providing gainful employment opportunities for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, according to Kellie Kennedy, Hilltop’s program director.

“Our primary intention was to create meaningful jobs for people with disabilities in our community,” Kennedy said. “Entering the bottle and can redemption business was also in line with Hilltop’s commitment to recycling and the environment.”

In New York State, redemption centers such as Hilltop receive a handling fee of 8.5 cents for every bottle or can that they reroute to its source. So, after returning the nickel deposit to the customer, they bank 3.5 cents per bottle.

All proceeds are used to enhance work programs for people with disabilities in the local area. For Hilltop, more bottles and cans equal more opportunity for people with disabilities. At the end of 2013, Hilltop processed nearly 2 million returnables, which brought in $70,000 to support four part-time employees with disabilities.

Customers may also create fundraising accounts to benefit their favorite charity, church, school or community group.

The employees are supervised by a “Job Coach,” a direct support professional paid by Hilltop Industries to oversee the center. Redemption center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Workers for Hilltop Bottle and Can Return were selected through an application and interview process overseen by Judy Welch, Hilltop’s coordinator of vocational and day services. She oversaw the training of new redemption center employees and described the selection process as “challenging but rewarding.”

“There was a ton of interest and enthusiasm about the new jobs at Hilltop Bottle and Can Return,” Welch said. “We had many candidates, but these are highly specialized jobs. To be successful, workers need a strong sense of organization, math skills, and a focus on customer service.”

Rose Nehrbass (pictured above left, with her job coach, Tammy Kovacs) has been employed by Hilltop Bottle and Can Return since its opening and previously worked as a custodian for 18 years at Geneseo Central School. Her job at the redemption center involves collecting returnables from customers and sorting them by brand.

Rose’s accuracy is critical because Hilltop has agreements with three different routers, and each accepts only certain brands of recyclables. “The job isn’t easy, but I like the variety of tasks it offers,” she said. “I get to use counting and sorting skills and especially like using the cash register. I look forward to meeting and helping our customers.”

Through its work and rehabilitation programs, Hilltop Industries serves about 350 individuals with disabilities annually, including 11 janitorial contracts through NYSID. Hilltop Industries has a 20-year history with NYSID and currently employs 37 workers on NYSID contracts.

Hilltop has also migrated to environmentally friendly cleaning products for its janitorial services contracts, and in 2009 opened Finders Keepers, a thrift store that specializes in repurposing quality used goods that might otherwise become landfill fodder.


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