Maybe you have made a New Year's resolution to eliminate consuming all bottled or canned drinks that are part of Oregon's bottle bill. In the unlikely event you did, you may still find this article mildly informative. During these early weeks of January, have you purchased a beverage in an energy, juice or sports bottle or can? You may have not noticed the new deposit tacked on to the cost of your drink at the checkout stand. If you were not charged, you should have been. And, when you return those containers to the retailer, you can get the deposits back.
Starting Jan. 1, the Oregon Bottle Bill expanded again. Last April 2017, the deposit increased from a nickel to a dime and, beginning the first day of this new year, the types of participating beverage containers grew exponentially from just plastic water bottles, beer and soda to include:
Juice smoothies, aloe vera juice, fruit and vegetable juice, energy and sport drinks, coffee/tea, coconut water, non-alcohol wine, drinking vinegar, hard cider, marijuana beverages, muscle milk, protein shakes, non-alcoholic kombucha and some cocktail mixers. (This is not a complete list; more details are available at http://bit.do/bottlebill).
You might benefit from making a copy of the expanded program. It's possible some grocers have not yet been informed. There are so many items, there is bound to be a generous learning curve.
The state's intention is that the increase in value and inclusion of many more products will compel you to redeem those costs by returning the containers and getting your deposit back. The Oregon Bottle Bill originated back in the 1970s. An original focus was designed to discourage littering. While choosing not to litter is still worthwhile, today's message emphasizes resource recovery (recycling the value in the containers rather than lessening littering and landfilling).
These new measures were set in motion when our redemption rates of the original nickel deposit fell to 64% in 2015, failing to reach the 80 percent recycling rate set by the state. The Oregon Beverage and Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) is the organization tasked with achieving the goals of Oregon's bottle bill.
It may come as a surprise to learn that when you put your redeemable bottles and cans (including water bottles) in your recycle cart, the deposit is forfeited but the container is recycled. Those deposits are then directed into the coffers of the OBRC. While it is best to avoid landfilling bottles and cans by recycling them instead, it is better still that those dimes stay in our community to be spent on local needs. I wonder what the legislature intends to do if these recent changes to the bottle bill fail to earn the increase in redemption rates.
There are untapped opportunities for locals to do a little re-organizing to enable our schools and organizations to capture this resource opportunity and keep the deposits here. Collection containers placed strategically around town or taken to meetings or placed in buckets (away from the city's curb) might work. If you don't want to go to the trouble to redeem your containers, maybe an enterprising person or team or youth group, church, or neighbor that wants to earn some money, would jump for joy to arrange regular pick ups. Or, we designate a place(s) to bring the redeemables for those that can benefit. I believe the Ashland Food Bank is one smart organization collecting bottles and cans currently.
On Feb. 1 the WasteNot column will print the second part of this discussion of the Bottle Bill Expansion for 2018 to highlight a growing group of downtown businesses that have adopted baskets attached to city trash containers for bottles and cans. Please join me in appreciating them. Check out the signs on the basketed trash cans to learn who is participating. Thanks to these local businesses, our small community is able to offer this special service downtown.
May every waste prevention effort in 2018 be as easy as saving the dimes from bottle and can beverage treats. We might as well start somewhere — there's no place like home.
—Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a dozen years. You may reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot.