James V. LaVolpe, owner/president of County Can & Bottle Return Center, ran a used car dealership at 80 Smith Avenue, but a health problem and subsequent embezzlement by a business associate ended the business last year. Wanting to find an alternative use for the building—which LaVolpe, a native of Queens, had renovated after leaving New York and establishing himself in Kingston—and having a little over $50,000 to invest, LaVolpe came up with the idea of opening a bottle and can redemption center, in which customers get paid the full nickel for every redeemable bottle or can they bring in.
The center opened in October, and since then the business has taken off, processing more than a quarter million cans and bottles so far. One advantage is that “people don’t have to go from store to store” to receive their nickel, noted LaVolpe. His clientele is a total mixed bag, ranging from “people who just walk along the street and pick up cans” to lawyers, store and restaurant owners, and scouting groups doing fund drives to raise money. Just this past week, the Boy Scouts brought in $500 worth of redeemables, said LaVolpe.
One nice feature of the center is the drop-off service, in which a client in a hurry can drop off a bag of cans, write down his or name on a sheet of paper, and pick up the money on the return trip after work.
The bottles and cans are picked up 12 times a week and delivered to a central facility in Albany. (LaVolpe said that return centers north of Albany have the advantage of getting their items picked up by the company that has the facility, whereas he has to deal with a middleman for the deliveries.) So how does County Can make money? LaVolpe said the manufacturers pay handling fees, which constitute the business’s revenue. He also doesn’t have to waste time worrying about prettying up the cans for delivery: dented items are just fine.
County Can & Bottle Return Center has seven employees. LaVolpe said he plans to hire a couple of ARC people, who will help sort the items. The new employees, who will first be trained by special coaches, will be starting in a couple of weeks and will get a regular paycheck. “I like to give back to the community,” LaVolpe said, explaining what motivated him to connect with ARC.
When people on occasion drop off nonredeemable cans or bottles—which the center does not accept—he’ll put them out on the curb for recycling, rather than throw them out. A pretty decent place, that County Can. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5:30 and on Saturday from 9 to 3:30. Call 340-1005 for more information.