Did you know that Oregon was the first state to enact a “bottle bill”? The 1971 bill was passed to decrease a growing litter problem along roadways, beaches and other public places, and increase the rate of recycling in the state.
The law placed a 5-cent deposit on most single-use beverage containers made of plastic, glass or metal up to 1.5 liter sizes. That deposit could be redeemed by returning the bottle or can to a redemption center or other bottle return location. It was enormously successful! It wasn’t long before nine other states, as well as most Canadian provinces, followed suit and adopted their own bottle bills.
The bill was modified in 2007 to include bottled water (check out last month’s Trash Talk about plastic water bottles; if you didn’t read it, check the Herald and News online for October 26 “Business” section); and more recently in 2017 to increase the deposit to 10 cents. The increased deposit was enacted to improve the redemption rate. It was quite successful, increasing overall collection from 64.3 percent in 2016 to 73.3 percent in 2017.
The Oregon Bottle Bill program is enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and administered by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC). The OBRC recycles a billion containers a year!
The types of beverages currently covered by the law include:
n Beer/malt beverages
n Water, flavored water, soda water, mineral water
n Carbonated soft drinks, coffees, kombucha, and energy drinks.
The containers for the above beverages must be three liters or less in size. All other beverages (except distilled liquor, wine, dairy and plant milks, infant formula and meal replacement drinks) can be redeemed if the container size is from 4 ounces up to 1.5 liter, and include but is not limited to:
n Hard cider
n Fruit juice
n Energy and sports drinks
n Coconut water
In 2015, a staffed BottleDrop Center was opened in Klamath Falls at 2702 Eberlein Avenue to make redemption of bottles and cans easier and more efficient.
There are several ways to redeem at the centers: you can establish an account, then fill and drop off the provided green bags, and your account is credited. There are also self-serve reverse vending machines where you can redeem up to 350 containers per day; or you can use the hand count system, where a staff member will count the containers if you have 50 or fewer.
Your refund can be collected at the center in the form of cash or added to your account card, or you can print a voucher and redeem for cash at a participating retailer. Alternatively, you can print a “BottleDrop Plus” voucher which is worth 20 percent more per container (12 cents instead of 10), and can be used as credit towards your purchases at participating stores.
In Klamath Falls, that includes Fred Meyer, Sherm’s Thunderbird, or Albertson’s.
Interestingly, redeemed beverage containers are recycled in a different way than the curbside recycling system. Rather than being added to the mixed recycling stream that is collected through Waste Management, the containers are handled by the OBRC, which collects and sorts the containers and prepares for recycling.
Aluminum cans are crushed, baled and taken to recycling smelters where they are used to make new cans. Glass is crushed and taken to a glass recycler and made into new glass bottles. About 100 million pounds of glass is recycled in Oregon this way each year!
Plastic bottles are baled and taken to ORPET, Oregon’s first PET recycling facility. PET stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate which is the plastic used for bottle containers.
Through the partnership with ORPET, 13 million pounds of plastic is diverted yearly from landfills, and the recycling process is handled in the Pacific Northwest, rather than overseas. The plastic containers are turned into clean “flake”, which is sold to manufacturers who make items such as plastic clamshells, strapping, and polyester fiber for carpet, filler and clothing. Some of the plastic is even sold to one of the new recently FDA-approved facilities that remakes the PET into new bottles.
The Bottle Bill redemption system creates an efficient way to recycle and keep resources within our region, so keep it up, Klamath Falls!