Responses to Willamette Week article about bottle bill deposit increase

In the February 1st edition of the Willamette Weekly, an article titled “Corporate Lobbyists Turned Oregon’s Iconic Bottle Bill Into a Sweet Payday For Their Clients” discussed the financial impact of the bottle bill increase from 5 cents to 10 cents on April 1st.

In the article, it was mentioned that unclaimed deposits result in $30 million to distributors (600 million bottles).

RA was an early supporter of the bottle bill, and supports the upcoming changes in the bill.

There was some missing information in the article, and the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) has provided a response.

Response to “Corporate Lobbyists Turned Oregon’s Iconic Bottle Bill Into a Sweet Payday For Their Clients”

Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) would like to correct several assertions in Nigel Jaquiss’ recent article in the Willamette Week (“Corporate Lobbyists Turned Oregon’s Iconic Bottle Bill Into a Sweet Payday For Their Clients”). Since 2009, OBRC has helped make Oregon’s Bottle Bill a national model for a privately run, self-sustaining program that requires no taxpayer dollars. We strive to keep redemption rates high and unredeemed deposits help defray the cost of these efforts. OBRC’s annual budget is currently $34 million and increasing every year with the addition of new BottleDrop Redemption Centers.
Jaquiss writes that the unredeemed nickels currently held by distributors simply increase profits. This is factually inaccurate. Unredeemed deposits specifically offset the cost of picking up and processing returned containers, and are used to build BottleDrop Redemption Centers.

OBRC is committed to rapidly increasing the number of BottleDrop facilities, making it easier for all Oregonians to redeem containers. Our commitment to build 45 BottleDrop Redemption Centers statewide is still our central mission. When the OLCC approved these centers in 2013, OBRC’s goal was to open four BottleDrops per year. We have done that. Starting in 2017, we are working to increase that number to six per year. In addition, OBRC has debuted an innovative new program called “BottleDrop Express” to bring the green bag account program to rural areas where a full redemption center is not feasible, and also to urban areas where siting a redemption center is problematic. We believe every Oregonian should have convenient access to BottleDrop, and our over 122,000, and increasing daily, account holders show how successful we’ve already been.

We believe the increase to a 10-cent deposit is good for Oregon. A nickel simply is not worth what it once was. To keep the bottle bill meaningful and relevant, the deposit needs to go up. Puzzlingly, Jaquiss writes that it is “highly likely” the redemption rate will stay the same, yet cites no data for making this assumption. Oregon will be the first state to raise the deposit on all containers from 5 cents to 10 cents. Michigan, the only state with a universal 10 cent deposit, has a redemption rate of 94%. We don’t know what will happen after April 1st, but if Oregon achieves Michigan’s rate, unredeemed deposits will be a fraction of what they are today.

OBRC, in its stewardship role for the beverage industry, is continually looking for ways to reduce litter, increase redemption, and help the environment. OBRC has spent millions on free community and elementary school education programs, public awareness campaigns, and market research – all in an effort to encourage Oregonians to get their deposits back. OBRC has also recently announced an effort to create a statewide system of reusable beer bottles, in partnership with Oregon craft brewers. We are proud of our work, and we believe Oregonians value it.

We hope that future articles will examine and reflect all the facts about Oregon’s Bottle Bill.

Cherilyn Bertges
Public Relations & Outreach Manager
Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative
3900 NW Yeon Ave
Portland, OR 97210