Can redemption 010406

Herald photo by Michael Schaffer/Dan Sowers dumps one of several bags of beverage containers onto the sorting counter he brought to Indian Can Kountry Redemption Center Thursday morning as his 2-year-old son, Dusty, looks on. Sowers, of Oskaloosa, said they come to the redemption center about twice a month. Thursday, Sowers redeemed almost $10 in deposits.

OSKALOOSA — Beginning Jan. 1, the Oskaloosa Hy-Vee Food Store stopped accepting can, bottle and plastic redemptions, making that ritual a little less convenient.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Web site, “92 percent of beverage containers, or 1.4 billion, are redeemed annually in Iowa.”

Janie Anderson, Hy-Vee assistant manager of store operations, said the Oskaloosa Hy-Vee decided to stop accepting cans, bottles and plastic because of the unsanitary conditions they can sometimes create.

“Because it’s unsanitary to have the cans in here,” she said. “It’s just very disgusting to have that in your grocery store around the food that you buy.”

Anderson said they have received cans and bottles for redemption in the past that contained snakes and bugs.

The Oskaloosa Hy-Vee is doing it now, she said, because the new store manager, Dan Fuller, after talking to corporate headquarters, decided this was the best time.

Hy-Vee has no plans to offer redemption machines, as far as Anderson knows, but she did say the reaction from the public has been mixed.

“Some people understand when you tell them the facts of sanitation and everything,” she said. “There have been a few people upset.”

Anderson said they informed the public prior to Jan. 1 about the decision to stop accepting cans and bottles by advertising in the newspaper and by placing signs about the store.

Despite the decision by Hy-Vee to stop accepting can and bottles for redemption, a representative for one local retailer said they have yet to see an increase in redemptions and do not plan to make any changes with the five can and bottle redemption machines they have.

“As of right now, we don’t plan on getting rid of our can redemption,” Oskaloosa Wal-Mart SuperCenter’s Co-Manager said.

The Oskaloosa Wal-Mart SuperCenter has five redemption machines — two that accept plastic, two that accept cans and one that accepts glass. The co-manager said the machines accept the major brands and other brands Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club sells, but they do not accept off-brands, like those bottled and sold under the Hy-Vee or Fairway label.

In order for grocery stores and convenience stores to stop accepting cans and bottles for redemption, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Web site says they are required by Iowa law to have a redemption center approved by the DNR. In order for a redemption center to be approved, among other things, it must be in operation and open to the public at least 20 hours per week and accept all kinds, sizes and brand names of beverage containers sold by the dealers served by the redemption center.

This is where Tom Pitts and his business, Indian Can Kountry Redemption Center, located at 303 Rock Island Ave., in Oskaloosa, enters the picture.

Pitts said he not only knew of Hy-Vee’s desire to stop taking cans and bottles for redemption, his company the past month had to deal with the DNR to become an approved redemption center.

“This was in the plans for over a month and a half,” Pitts said. “We had to go through the DNR in order to do that.”

Pitts said business has been good. On a normal day, 200 people will come in and redeem cans, bottles and plastic. On Dec. 29, he said 62,000 cans were brought in for redemption and 31,000 cans were brought in on Dec. 30 in just four hours. In 20 hours of operation spanning three days, the Budweiser distributor picked up 91 bags with 240 cans in each and 700 cases of glass.

“We go through a lot of cans,” Pitts said.

Pitts said besides regular people bringing in their deposits, he also picks up the redeemed bottles, cans and plastic from all the bars and all the gas stations in town. He also picks up redeemed bottles, cans and plastic from three accounts in Knoxville, four accounts in Pella and one account in Webster.

“I’ve had people from Ames and Des Moines have brought their cans in here,” he said. “They said our people are friendly and do a good job so they bring them here.”

One customer who brought his 2-year-old son, Dusty, to the redemption center Thursday morning was Dan Sowers, of Oskaloosa. Sowers said they come to the center about twice a month.

“He likes to take cans in and then we go to the South 7 Street Grocery and he likes to buy some candy every once in a while,” Sowers said.

Pitts said he has yet to see any noticeable increase in can and bottle redemptions, but pointed out Hy-Vee’s new policy just began on Monday.

“I don’t know what Hy-Vee was doing per day as far as cans, but the increase will be significant,” Pitts said.

Herald Staff Writer Michael Schaffer can be reached by email at

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