By Betty Patton, Recycling Advocates President
I got the opportunity to learn a lot about Oregon’s Bottle Bill at the Association of Oregon Recyclers’ Annual Spring Forum on April 14th 2016.
I learned more about the history of the legislation, upcoming changes, and the challenges that will be faced as new beverages are added to the deposit program.
Some about the history: Richard Chambers collected bottles, cans and other litter on his regular hikes on trails and beaches in Oregon in the 1960s. He quickly took on the idea of a container deposit system for the state of Oregon and informed the elected officials, including Governor Tom McCall, that this was an obvious solution to widespread litter. The legislation was introduced in 1969 and after hard work, was passed in 1971. Sadly, Mr. Chambers died too early in 1974. He never wanted credit for his efforts; he just wanted it done.
Fast forward to the early 2000s: Mr. Chambers daughter, Representative Vicki Berger, introduced legislation to extend the original bottle bill to cover more beverages, but it was defeated in the Senate. In 2007, her efforts paid off and Governor Kulongoski signed SB 707 into law, expanding the system to cover bottled water and flavored water and take effect January 1, 2009. A task force was created to study changes and expansions to the system.
Current numbers: We have return numbers for 2014; the 2015 numbers will be published by August of this year. Oregon has a large number of covered beverages, making it tougher to reach a higher rate of return. The overall return rate of covered beverage containers is 68.26%. Oregonians return 55.44% of the plastic beverage bottles, 71.9% of the glass, and 74.26% of the metal cans. The beverages that are covered are water, flavored water, soda water, mineral water, carbonated, beer/malt-based beverages, and carbonated soft drinks.
The near future: April 1, 2017 the deposit increases to 10 cents. January 1, 2018 the list of beverages expands to teas, coffee, energy and sports drinks that are equal to or greater than 4 ounces and equal to or less than 1.5 liters. Many pose challenges to the automated system because of their packaging shape and materials. But with many BottleDrop Centers already open around the state and more planned for the next few years it looks like the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, OBRC, will be ready.
What is a BottleDrop? A clean, staffed, high tech facility that is a redemption center for beverages covered under the Oregon Bottle Bill. These facilities can replace the majority of the responsibilities of container collection at larger grocery stores in the close vicinity. Find the BottleDrop location nearest you.
The container deposit systems in the 10 states where they exist all have their individual characteristics. Many don’t include bottled water, just beer and sodas. By 2018, Oregon will again take the lead in this area expanding the list and increasing the fully refundable deposit to 10 cents.
Stay tuned; Recycling Advocates’ website will be a good place to visit in the near future to get details on our bottle bill.