Local redemption center overwhelmed with containers during coronavirus pandemic

CAN DOUGH OTTUMWA(James Barrickman)
Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 10:33 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - After the coronavirus shut down several recycling centers in southeast Iowa, a lot of pressure was put on Can Dough in Ottumwa to safely manage a surplus of containers.

The owner of Can Dough, Leanna Collins, says she hasn’t been back to her home in Martinsburg, Iowa in three weeks. She’s been sleeping in a chair inside her office, while working nearly 100 hours a week.

“If I take time off, the cans build up. If cans don’t get out, we don’t get money,” Collins said.

Collins and her staff are trying to keep up with a surplus of cans, nearly 150,000 a day, that stack high to the rafters of the warehouse. After the pandemic shut down several other redemption centers in the region, residents were forced to drive, in some cases, hours just to redeem their containers from Can Dough.

”We figure we bought the cans, we might as well turn it in and get a little bit of profit back from the pop and stuff that we bought,” said Shelby McDaniel, who drove from Knoxville, Iowa for the extra cash.

The need for redemption centers is real, according to Collins. Many of her customers use the money to pay for things like groceries and rent.

“They live on it. There’s lines out here constantly, where people are just needing there money,” Collins explained.

Redeemers make roughly $12 per garbage bag of containers. While she does what she has to do to make a living, she’s more concerned with saving the earth.

”If you’re in this business to make money, you’re in the wrong business because you make a penny a can. I worry about the environment especially, because it keeps it off the ground and keeps the earth going,” said Collins.

Though the facility has had a rough go of it since the pandemic began in March, Collins says her employees have been there every step of the way.

”It’s been hard. We’re here more than we’re at home. I mean, my people come in early and stay late. I’ve got regulars that have been with me for eight years, so they know what it’s like,” Collins said.

Can Dough is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 AM until 7 PM.

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