STATEWIDE When Oregon became the first state in the nation to pass a bottle bill in 1971, the program built swiftly into a success, with a recovery rate of more than 90%. But a nickel isn’t worth what it used to be. These days beverage distributors collect $16 million per year in unclaimed deposits because Oregon’s redemption rate has dropped to 78%.
A state-appointed task force recommends boosting deposits to 10 cents, including everything from bottled coffee to fifths of bourbon and building 90 new bottle return facilities statewide. Steve Apotheker, a recycling expert for Metro regional government, says the updates are certain to result in higher recovery rates.
At first glance it would seem an easy green vote in a legislative session where it will be easy being green. But the beverage industry is pushing back, hiring lobbyists to argue that new costs will be passed onto consumers and higher volumes will clog the system.
“You have to believe there are more efficient and creative ways to get people to recycle,” says Steve Emery, CEO of EARTH2O, a water bottling company in Central Oregon. “Especially when we’ve got recycling trucks that come to your curbside every week.”
The 42-employee EARTH2O is already adapting to a new mandate starting in January to charge deposits for bottled water, and Emery is not looking forward to additional rule changes and costs. Apotheker counters that if Oregon doesn’t modernize the system it will continue to decline. Legislators will be hearing more from both sides come January.
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