Connecticut is about to see a surge in new redemption centers, the privately run businesses that reclaim bottles and cans with a deposit value.

More than a dozen redemption centers are under development, according to one estimate, which would nearly double the industry’s capacity — there are 16 bulk redemption centers currently licensed to operate in the state.

The increase is intended to help Connecticut better handle an expected surge in volume of redeemed beverage containers, spurred by a change in state law that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Connecticut increased the 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans to 10 cents, giving consumers an added incentive to return their empties to a redemption center, grocery store or other designated business that is required to accept qualified cans and bottles.

The change in law, originally passed by the legislature in 2021, also expanded the types of containers eligible for redemption to include non-carbonated beverages, hard ciders and malt-based hard seltzers.

However, despite that expected increase in capacity, members of a statewide food retailers association worry that certain parts of the state still have no local bulk redemption facilities — including heavily populated municipalities like Danbury, New London, Norwalk, Stamford and Torrington — and that grocery stores and other businesses will be inundated with cans and bottles they can’t, or will have trouble handling.

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association (CFA), said grocery stores are particularly concerned because the number of bottles and cans being redeemed statewide could potentially total more than 2.2 billion.

By comparison, 758.8 million cans and bottles were redeemed in 2022, which accounted for 44.5% of the 1.7 billion containers sold, according to data from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“We want to sell tchotchkes, to sell paczkis, we want to sell flowers,” Pesce said of grocery stores. “We are not a recycling center.”

Down the middle

The state is trying to help expand redemption center capacity with its Beverage Container Recycling Grant program.

It has earmarked $5 million to promote the development of new bulk redemption centers, as well as for upgrades to existing facilities.

So far, the program — administered by DEEP — has awarded $4.1 million in grants to 11 projects, including six new facilities and upgrades to five existing centers.

Nearly half of the funding is going to a proposed facility in Bristol; none is going to projects in areas the CFA deems as redemption-center deserts.

According to — a website created and maintained by the CFA, Naugatuck-based waste management company Envipco, and Shelton-based recycling firm Tomra — the state has 16 existing redemption centers, while another dozen are being developed.

Nearly all of them are located down the middle of the state, along Interstate 91.

Going digital

The website’s list of 12 new facilities does not yet include the recipient of DEEP’s largest grant to date.

RecyclX has been awarded $1.87 million to open a new bulk redemption facility in Bristol.

Unlike most of the other grant recipients, though, RecyclX’s bulk redemption facility will not be open to the public. It will operate using a new, more innovative business model.

Shahil Kantesaria, who has applied to the Bristol Zoning Commission for a special permit to create the redemption center in an existing warehouse at 95 Wooster Court, said he plans to collect bags of beverage containers at remote locations and process them in the 55,897-square-foot space in Bristol.

He has a partnership with Clynk, a Maine-based company that has created a digitally based bottle and can redemption system.

Clynk provides “sustainability stations,” similar to clothing donation bins, that will be placed in shopping center parking lots. Consumers set up a digital account and put their bottles and cans in a green recyclable Clynk bag.

A box of 10, 30-gallon bags, each of which can hold about 20 pounds of empty containers, costs $2.49 plus tax, according to the company’s website.

Customers are sent 10 QR-coded “bag tags” when they sign up, and can print others when needed at a kiosk at a participating grocer. The tags are placed on the bags and then scanned at the sustainability station to track a customer’s returns.

A few days later, after the bags are processed, consumers receive payment in their digital accounts.

RecyclX will send trucks to collect the bags from each sustainability station for processing in Bristol, said Kantesaria, who lives in West Hartford. The facility, which is awaiting approval, is expected to have 20 employees, he said.

Kantesaria said he chose Bristol for a variety of reasons.

“Real estate is pretty tough to even find in Connecticut,” he said, adding that the location is near a highway and offers “access to working-class people.”

He said he also wanted the facility to be “south of Hartford,” since he intends to place and service bins as far downstate as Fairfield County.

Setting limits

Pesce said the state’s efforts to expand both the number and location of private bulk redemption centers has not produced the results needed to match the expected growth in bottle and can volume.

While a majority of food retailers are fine with doing the work, Pesce said, they’d just like some more, and better located help with it.

“We’re selling these products and we do have an obligation to take back what we sell,” Pesce said. “That’s fair.”

But, he said, because there are so many non-grocery stores — such as convenience stores and gas stations — that sell these products and don’t take them back, “that’s where we struggle a little bit with the volume.”


Tony Santiago carries bags of sorted beverage containers at West Hartford Redemption.

In particular, Pesce said, it’s one thing for a grocery store to redeem a couple of garbage bags full of bottles and cans brought in by a customer. It’s another thing entirely to deal with bottle and can drives held by organizations like the Boy Scouts.

There are also those who collect thousands of bottles and cans to make a living.

The updated state statute, he noted, now includes a limit — grocery store customers are allowed to redeem a maximum of 240 bottles and/or cans per visit.

Pesce said he would like to see DEEP have an even more “prescriptive private redemption model” that specifically targets key areas of the state.

Making changes

Rep. Joseph P. Gresko (D-Stratford), co-chair of the state legislature’s Environment Committee, said he’d also like to see DEEP, through its grant program, “steer interested entrepreneurs into the eastern and western part of the state,” where there are few or no redemption centers.

He concedes, though, there are reasons facilities have not been developed in certain locations. Whether it’s a landowner who believes a redemption center “is stinky and has bottles everywhere,” not realizing state-of-the-art facilities are cleaner and safer, or just the high cost of leases, “sometimes it’s difficult to locate them there,” he said.

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for DEEP, said his agency has conducted “additional outreach” for new redemption centers “in qualified areas that remain unrepresented and where no applications had been received.”

Nonetheless, policymakers can make tweaks to the state’s bottle-deposit law, if needed, Gresko said.

“We just went to 10 cents a couple of weeks ago, right? I’m going to let that marinate for a little while and see what happens,” he said. “Maybe we do have to come back next year and fix a couple of glitches, but I’d like to see what some of the numbers are as far as redemption values going up.”

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