Clynk, the drop-off-and-go bottle and can redemption service based in South Portland, is doubling in size and expanding into upstate New York.

The company, which operates 49 bag drop-off centers and kiosks inside Hannaford supermarkets in Maine, is opening 51 more centers at Hannaford stores in the Greater Albany area of New York, said CEO Clayton Kyle. The expansion should be completed by mid-2017, he said.

“We have 16 of them open now,” Kyle said.

Founded in 2006, Clynk takes a technology-based approach to bottle and can redemption that spares customers the hassle of feeding their recyclables individually into a machine. Instead, customers drop off entire bags, and the company does the rest.

Joe Heroux works at a machine that counts bottles and cans at Clynk in South Portland on Wednesday. Clynk employs about 80 people in Maine and plans to have a staff of about 60 in the Greater Albany area of New York.

Joe Heroux works at a machine that counts bottles and cans at Clynk in South Portland on Wednesday. Clynk employs about 80 people in Maine and plans to have a staff of about 60 in the Greater Albany area of New York. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Here’s how it works: Customers sign up for the free service at Clynk’s electronic kiosks in Hannaford stores by creating accounts and picking up barcoded key tags that can be scanned at any kiosk to access that customer’s account. Customers also can sign up on the company’s website and receive their key tags in the mail.

The kiosks serve multiple functions. They can be used to print out barcoded stickers that customers affix to special Clynk recycling bags to associate those bags with their account. The bags can be purchased at Hannaford stores and cost $1.75 for 10 bags. For new customers, the first 10 bags are free.

After a Clynk customer drops off their full bags for redemption, the bags are transported by Clynk to a central processing center, and the customer’s account is credited within two business days for the full redemption value of the bottles and cans. Unstaffed drop-off centers are located inside smaller Hannaford stores and in the parking lots of larger stores.

Customers use the kiosks to check the amount of credit they have earned, and they can print out a ticket to be redeemed at Hannaford for cash or store credit. They also can donate any amount of their credit to a charity of their choice through the kiosk.

Longtime Clynk employee Loriann Day moves bags of bottles and cans at the company's redemption center at the Hannaford store in Scarborough on Monday.

Longtime Clynk employee Loriann Day moves bags of bottles and cans at the company’s redemption center at the Hannaford store in Scarborough on Monday. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Clynk kiosks also offer coupons periodically that can be printed and used at Hannaford stores. Thus, Clynk’s service contains elements of a customer loyalty program.

“It’s a very effective couponing system,” Kyle said. “Our redemption rate on these coupons is very, very high.”

But that’s only half the business. The other half takes place behind the scenes, and that’s where Clynk’s patented technology really distinguishes itself.

Inside Clynk’s processing facility in South Portland, individual bottles and cans are scanned, sorted and baled for the return trip to beverage bottlers and distributors. In addition to sorting for cans or bottles, Clynk also sorts containers by product type: beer bottles and cans go with beer, soda with soda, etc. In all, the plant processes about 350,000 bottles and cans per day, Kyle said.

The company’s software carefully tracks how much aluminum, glass or plastic should be sent back to each distributor. The amount of recycled materials is measured by weight: 1 ton of aluminum may go to Anheuser-Busch, 2 tons of plastic to PepsiCo, and so on.

Clayton Kyle, Clynk's CEO, credits the Finance Authority of Maine for helping his company grow.

Clayton Kyle, Clynk’s CEO, credits the Finance Authority of Maine for helping his company grow. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Beverage companies favor the system Clynk uses because it takes the guesswork out of the process, Kyle said. Distributors know they are receiving the correct amount of recycled materials back to their bottling plants. In bottle bill states such as Maine, distributors actually are the ones responsible for paying that 5, 10 or 15 cents per recycled bottle or can back to the consumer.

“We have an electronic system that gives them a barcode for everything we touch,” Kyle said. “They get data on how much aluminum (or glass, or plastic) they are owed.”

The distributors pay processing fees to companies such as Clynk for the service they provide, which is where the bulk of Clynk’s revenue comes from. The company is nearing $5 million in revenue in 2016, up just over 7 percent from 2015.

Kyle credits the Finance Authority of Maine for help growing the company, as well as development awards and research grant funds from the Maine Technology Institute.

In addition, Clynk licenses its proprietary technology to other redemption services. For example, Oregon’s statewide redemption service uses licensed Clynk technology, Kyle said.

Clynk employs about 80 people in Maine and plans to have a staff of about 60 in New York.

Hannaford is a crucial partner in Clynk’s business model, Kyle said. Clynk has an exclusive agreement to operate in Hannaford stores in Maine, he said, and that relationship has now been expanded to include the Albany area.

Hannaford pays the upfront costs to add Clynk drop-off centers to its stores, and it has worked with Clynk to evolve some aspects of the business, such as the customer loyalty component.

“They did a lot of real work to develop this concept,” Kyle said.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said the relationship with Clynk is good for the supermarket chain because customers really like the service Clynk offers.

“The program has been very successful and popular with our customers,” Blom said. “It definitely increases loyalty and the customers’ interest in shopping at our stores.”

Clynk customer Mike Makin of Scarborough stopped by the company’s redemption center at Hannaford in Scarborough on Monday. Makin praised the system that Clynk has developed.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It just makes so much sense.”