Coca-Cola sets new guidelines for 3 Connecticut recycling redemption centers

WALLINGFORD -- If you use recycling redemption centers in Bristol and Wallingford, don't bring your Coca-Cola product returnables.

"You're talking about Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Monster, Dasani water, Smart water, Vitamin water," said Michael Pianka, the owner of M&M Redemption Center in Wallingford.

Coca-Cola says these centers must now hand process Coke returnables.

"[Due to] suspicious activity on reverse vending machines (RVMs) at three Connecticut redemption centers, we have asked these businesses to manually sort containers so we may verify that our containers are being properly processed in accordance with Connecticut law," said Nick Martin, Coca-Cola's Director of Public Affairs and Communications for New England.

"We are here all the time. We have video cameras. I don't know what they're suggesting. I don't know if it's an accounting error," said Pianka, who has owned and operated M&M with his wife, Amanda, for 16 years.

"While our internal evaluation of the data from RVMs is ongoing, and the source of the activity is inconclusive at this time, such discrepancies were significant enough to warrant this change at this time," said Martin.

The changes impact M&M in Wallingford, Green Planet in Bristol and Redemption Centers of America in West Haven. The West Haven facility is the only one deciding to comply with Coca-Cola's request. The other two say the hand processing directive is cost prohibitive.

"It would mean I would have to hire additional personnel to hand sort these containers," said Pianka, who says his business barely breaks even. And, he adds, their pickup vendor won't come until he's got at least 200 full bags waiting.

"As you can see, I don't have a very large facility," said Pianka, pointing to his 3,000 square foot building on Church Street (Rt 68).

Customers of the Wallingford and Bristol centers will soon have to bring Coke redeemable products to their grocery store.

"The only thing is they don't have a lot of machines at those places," said Roy Billings, of Wallingford. "So, you're going to be waiting in line a lot because there's going to be such a back up."

"I don't drink too much soda anymore, but when I do, I drink Coke," said Phyllis McNeill of Cheshire. "So, I'm going to keep drinking Coke," she added, with a hearty laugh.

Both Green Planet and M&M, which stand to lose at least $1,000 week if Coke maintains its position, will no longer accept Coca-Cola product returnables beginning Friday or Saturday.

The Coca-Cola Co. distributes Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Fresca, Mello Yello, Fuze, Barq’s, Dasani and Vitamin Water.