CATSKILL — The Ulster-Greene ARC will close its bottle and can redemption center on West Bridge Street next month due to funding constraints and operation costs.
The local ARC — a private nonprofit agency founded in 1956 — announced its Catskill Bottle and Can Redemption Center at 311 West Bridge St., will close May 25 after five years of operation.
“At a meeting on March 12, it was agreed that the process of closing the Catskill Bottle and Can Redemption Center should proceed ahead,” said Lori McCable, Ulster-Greene ARC’s director of communications and public relations. “The decision was made due to financial reasons since the operation had been losing $7,000 per month.”
The state discontinued vital funding for the program that hires 17 people, some of whom are affected by a disability and others who are not, McCabe said.
“In February of 2018, a notice was received indicating that [the state] would eliminate all of the $120,000 in funding that had helped subsidize the operations making the projected losses climb to $17,000 a month,” McCabe said Monday.
The redemption center received funding from a section of the state budget for long-term, sheltered employment programs.
The center processed an average of 300,000 cans and bottles a month, McCabe said, and lost about $700 a year for all five years it was open.
“We closed the Kingston center a few years ago for the same reason,” McCabe said. “We did everything we could to keep this one going.”
The center gets 3.5 cents per bottle or can returned, with 5 cents going to the center’s distributor.
The ARC plans to explore other avenues to fund its programs that help people with disabilities work and lead productive lives, McCabe said.
“With the closure of the Bottle and Can Center, the ARC of Ulster-Greene is working with Galileo Technologies to create four manufacturing pods that will allow start-up businesses to come in and employ people with disabilities as well as non-disabled people to produce, package, label and ship products in the soon-to-be-vacant space,” McCabe said. “The plan is for this center to be open sometime in 2019.”
When ARC’s Kingston bottle redemption center closed, the nonprofit did the same thing with the space.
“We bring in start-up companies from all over that are growing out of the owners’ homes,” McCabe said. “These businesses can’t afford to rent yet, so we offer them a reduced rate and they are required to hire at least one person with disabilities.”
Each participating business gets an area of the facility where the company can produce, manufacture and distribute, McCabe said.
“This is a great opportunity for start-up businesses,” she added. “The idea is that the company will grow so large it needs a bigger space to continue operating. Then, we will find new companies to fill the space.”
The closing of the redemption center is unfortunate, state Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, said.
“It is unfortunate that a program like this had to end,” Amedore said. “When ARC closed their bottle and can redemption center in Kingston, they still provided opportunities for employment. I am pleased that ARC will do the same in Catskill. This site will still provide economic development and success.”
Amedore blamed Gov. Andrew Cuomo for eliminating funding for sheltered workshop programs such as the redemption center.
“This is what happens when the governor decides to move funds around between agencies,” Amedore said. “Agencies are facing tough financial times; at the same time, the governor politicized the minimum wage — placing another mandate on agencies. This the unintended consequence of those actions.
“The governor did not prioritize sheltered workshops,” Amedore added.