Oregon Bottle Bill
The Oregon Bottle Bill is a container-deposit legislation passed in the U.S. state of Oregon in 1971 and amended in 2007 and 2011. It requires applicable beverages in applicable sizes in glass, plastic or metal cans or bottles sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value (10 cents as of July 1, 2017). It is administered by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
When passed in 1971, the bottle bill was viewed primarily as a litter control measure. In 1971 bottles made up about 40% of litter, 10.8% in 1973 and 6% in 1979. Oregon DEQ reports that the reduction is "as a result of the law" referring to the Bottle Bill. In a 2006 publication it was reported that states without similar bills recycle on average 33% of their containers. A 2016 study by Campbell, Benjamin, et al. found bottle deposit law only had a small impact of about 3% for clear glass and aluminum recycling rate when bottle deposit law coexists with municipal recycling program. In 2015, more than 80% of Oregonians lived where curbside recycling is provided. In the same year, the Oregonian's editorial board posited that the bottle deposit has become more redundant as curbside recycling became more common. Beverage distributors retain all deposits not reclaimed by consumers. Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), the sole designated contractor for the State of Oregon has self-reported an estimate annual average of 85% in its 2018 annual report.
Starting in early 2010s, OLCC approved redemption centers ran by distributors and there were 16 of them by April 2017. Several redemption centers have been plagued with issues revolving around transients, crime and drug activities and community objections to redemption center proposals have revolved around these issues.
- 1 Applicability
- 2 Deposit redemption
- 2.1 BottleDrop Express
- 2.2 Concerns around fraudulent conduct
- 2.3 Community concerns regarding BottleDrop redemption centers
- 2.4 Retailer requirements
- 3 Context
- 4 History
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Any beverage of the following kinds, 3 liters or less, sold in Oregon is required to carry a deposit, which as of July 1, 2017 is 10 cents per container.
- Water and flavored water
- Beer or other malt beverages
- Mineral waters, soda water and similar carbonated soft drinks.
Starting January 1, 2018, any other beverage (including juice, coffee, nutritional supplements, sports drinks and energy drinks) more than or equal to 4 US fluid ounces (120 ml) and less than equal to 1½ liters sold in Oregon is required to carry a deposit, 10 cents per container. Excepted are:
- distilled liquor
- wine, including mead and hard cider over 8.5% ABV
- dairy milk, including chocolate milk, cultured milk such as kefir and buttermilk, and lactose free milk
- plant-based milks, including coconut milk (but not coconut juice)
- meal replacement beverages, like Boost and Ensure
- infant formula
- vinegar (except drinking vinegar)
- flavoring and condiments, including juices not normally drunk without mixing, like lemon and lime juice
- concentrates and syrup
Deposit is initially collected by the manufacturer and charged at each transaction. Deposit that is not redeemed is kept by distributors such as Columbia Distributing and Maletis Beverages. Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss was uncertain about the environmental benefits but opined "the increase will create a big payday for the companies that distribute beer and soda." The bottle bill is enforced by the OLCC and administered by the OBRC. Beverage containers that are recycled through curbside recycling are not counted towards redemption and waste haulers do not receive redemption value. Revenue from the sale of recycled output materials is returned to the distributor members that form the cooperative. In 2016, OLCC refused to release the monetary value of the deposit kept by distributors. OLCC issued the response "we are forbidden from releasing any numbers other than a percentage" to Willamette Week's request. The paper appealed to the Oregon Department of Justice which ordered the numbers be released as a matter of public record in September 2016. The newspaper noted that the beverage industry lobbyist Paul Romain said the distributor wanted the individual companies numbers private. The data showed that distributors were keeping about $30 million annually. In 2017, OBRC's expenses were $34 million. $9 million of which was paid by distributors and $25 million was paid by the unredeemed deposit. OBRC had 500 employees and a budget of $43 million for 2018. During the same year, $29 million of the budget was paid for with unredeemed bottles. Remaining were paid by cash contributions from grocers and distributors.
Depending on production method, some of these products meet the definition of malt beverage and others meet the definition of wine. OLCC posit that both the OLCC and the OBRC agree that these beverages "should" bear a refund value. OLCC says retailers and OBRC "should" pay redemption on these products until clarified by the Oregon Legislature.
This is a redemption option in which consumers return bagged cans for redemption processing. Bags are dropped off at participating stores. They're collected and counted at a processing center and the redemption values credited into user's account. The users first establish an account with their driver's license which enables them to print bag tags and manage their account. The user applies their personalized tags on proprietary green bags purchased inside the store. Bags are purchased for $2.00 for a pack of 10 and OBRC charges 35 cents for each bag processed after they're returned. Express locations are not staffed.
Concerns around fraudulent conduct
Theft from curbside bins and receptacles
It is unlawful under Oregon Revised Statutes 459A.080 to remove recyclable containers set aside for collection by a city or county collection service without the permission of the owner or generator of the contents, which includes going through curbside bins for containers with deposit value. It is also unlawful to remove recyclable material from a container, box, vehicle, depot or other receptacle for the accumulation or storage of recyclable material without permission of the receptacle's owner. Violation of ORS 459A.080 is a class A misdemeanor criminal offense per ORS 459.992(1)(d) In the Oregon Supreme Court case State v. Waterhouse,defendant, a scrapper, was found guilty of intentionally appropriating scrap metal having some value to himself. In December 2018, The Columbian reported neighbors in the Cascade Park neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington near the Oregon border have noticed thefts of cans and bottles as well as the curbside bins. A district manager for Waste Connections reported glass volume processed by its subsidiary Columbia Resource Company that handles Clark County, Washington saw a 9% reduction in glass bottles returned after the deposit increased from 5 cents to 10 cents in Oregon in 2017. He attributes the likely cause to theft. Removal of contents from recycling bins or nearby them without the consent of the generator or the hauler is prohibited in Clark County. To realize the redemption values, University of Oregon has formed a partnership with OBRC and Sanipac and setup a protocol to gather up deposit bearing containers so recognized student organizations will receive redemption values. The university advises participants to contact the campus security or the police in the event they're encountered by hostile or aggressive "independent recyclers".
Oregon DEQ survey reports over half of property managers interviewed identified the use of waste collection area by non-tenants, such as transients a problem that cause issues such as contamination of recyclable materials. Oregon DEQ opined retrieval of returnable containers as the motivation for transients and other non-tenants to access the collection areas.
A signage posted in downtown Portland advising would-be trespassers that no returnable containers are kept on property
Redemption of previously redeemed containers
Jules Bailey, the chief stewardship officer for OBRC told Mail Tribune there have been instances of people attempting to redeem cans that have already been redeemed through a machine. State of Oregon provides information for how to identify containers that have already been redeemed through a machine. "Cans that have been fed through a reverse vending machine will have small square indentations or perforations and will be fairly symmetrically crushed, and bottles will have a crushed neck."
Fraudulent redemption of out-of-state containers
Redemption of out-of-state containers is considered a fraud and prohibited by the bottle bill. Retailers and redemption centers may refuse to accept containers when they reasonable grounds to believe they were purchased outside of Oregon. Staff at some locations near the state border request receipts proving they containers being redeemed were purchased in Oregon. Fraudulent redemption has been a problem according to KATU news. As told to KATU reporter by a coop (OBRC) representative Joel Schoening, the redemption center staff at Delta Park near the state boundary catches about 50 people a day from Washington. C-TRAN which operates public transit service that traverses between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon have banned the carrying of empty beverage containers on their service for safety and sanitation reasons; not because of transients who carry Washington cans across the state line to redeem them in Portland. Senate Bill 522 sponsored by Betty Johnson from Scappoose fines those who bring out-of-state containers. She told KGW "retail grocers in her district every day are overwhelmed with massive bottle returns from the Washington side of river, sometimes by the pickup load." Within the public hearing referenced within the KGW article, the store director for Saint Helens, Safeway testified to the committee that he's seen a dramatic increase in Washington residents returning containers at his Safeway and described his account of people arriving in Washington plate vehicles with cases of bottled water and emptying them out on the parking lot to prepare the bottles to return into bottle machines. Northwest Grocery Association's president Joe Gilliam reported redemption rates at redemption centers near the Oregon state border have seen a sharp rise, sometimes over 100% following the deposit value increase in Oregon.
Bottle deposit motivated welfare fraud "water dumping"
"Water dumping" is a term dubbed by the United States Department of Agriculture referring to a commonly perpetrated welfare fraud by cash seeking welfare recipients purchasing bottled water so they can empty them out and redeem containers for the redemption value in cash. In September 2012, such scheme was not considered a fraud in Oregon. In February 2013, USDA expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud definition to include water dumping. The USDA intends to place repeat "water dumping" offenders on the nationwide lifetime SNAP ban list.
Community concerns regarding BottleDrop redemption centers
In order to open a redemption center, it must be approved by OLCC. A site was proposed at southwest 17th Avenue and west Burnside Street in Portland in 2014. OLCC received about 200 comments, most of which were against the center. Stakeholders such as dozens of neighbors and businesses including Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC opposed the establishment of the beverage container redemption center. Many objections related to foresight of vagrants and crime related to transients with shopping carts with scavenged cans flocking to the new redemption center.
A redemption center opened up in May, 2017 in Beaverton. KATU's Andrew Reed reports neighbors report BottleDrop brought in people "who routinely act suspicious and are causing problems" in the neighborhood. A nearby veterinarian interviewed reports BottleDrop "brought a wave of problems to his property". He reports one of his business' security camera was ripped off and had someone break into his practice' bathroom to use drugs. In addition, he reports shopping carts getting left on his property almost daily as well as finding bottles of urine; offering a list of issues of security, noise, odor, traffic, littering, drug paraphernalia and transients. A resident behind the house reported seeing public urination and became suspicious of people he believes to be acting suspiciously near his home.The dean of students for Jesuit High School commented "Our school is less safe now" referring to the presence of OBRC's BottleDrop redemption center. Supporters of the center were the Oregon Food Bank which participates in its fundraising program and two science teachers from Meadow Park Middle School, which is approximately four miles from the site.
In September 2017, KTVZ described that businesses near the Bend BottleDrop Center have "noticed a difference in the neighborhood ever since the Bottle Drop moved in". The news reporter described businesses have seen transient encampments nearby and felt the BottleDrop attracts transients. In 2017, Bend police responded to 270 calls at the BottleDrop. In four months period leading up to when the story was written on July 16, 2018, two subjects were arrested for offensive littering and 11 were arrested for drug offenses at the BottleDrop property. Bend Police arrested 24 people in 4-months period leading up to July 12th, 2018 around the BottleDrop for matters such as drug possession, stealing shopping carts from retailers and offensive littering.
In June 2018, Damian Mann of Mail Tribune reports nearby business owners say the OBRC's redemption center has been a " magnet for methamphetamine “tweakers” who cash in their bottles and head out to buy drugs and "unsavory behavior". These Medford businesses also said they began noticing vagrancy, theft and vandalism ever since BottleDrop redemption center opened. In 2018, the owner of Southern Oregon Crane in Medford testified to the city council “It’s like living right next to a crack house." in reference to the redemption center.  The redemption center has been in place since November 2014 in Medford.
Retailers are required to refund deposit to consumer when they present containers as set forth by the bottle bill. The requirements are dependent on whether the size of the store is greater than or equal to 5,000 square feet, distance from the redemption center, and the retailer's participation in the program.
Retailers' right to refuse bottle returns
Retailers and redemption centers are allowed to refuse containers contaminated with anything other than ordinary dust, the original contents or water. Additionally, when staff have reasonable grounds to suspect the containers were not purchased in Oregon. BottleDrop redemption centers use individuals arriving in a vehicle with Washington license plates as a reasonable ground to suspect they were purchased elsewhere unless they can prove the beverages were purchased in Oregon. If there are reasonable such grounds, retailers may request a receipt. The OLCC says retailers should reject containers that appear to have been redeemed already. OLCC describes cans that have already been through the machine are characterized by "small square indentations or perforations and will be fairly symmetrically crushed" and plastic bottles will have a crushed neck.
Over 5,000 square feet
Participating retailers over 5,000 square feet retailers within two miles (zone 1) from a redemption center are not required to accept any container. If in zone 2 (up to 3 1/2 miles from center), they are required to accept 24 per person, per day. Retailers outside of the zone are required to accept 144. Retailers within the zone that choose not to participate to redemption center program are required to accept 350 containers per person per day.
Under 5,000 square feet
They're required to accept 24 containers per person per day if they're within either zone 1 or zone 2. 50 if they're outside.
Retailers under 5,000 square feet (small shop, convenience stores and like) are allowed to limit the quantity to 50 containers per person per day. They can also limit them to the brand and size they sell.
Within these limitations, retailers are required to accept containers all hours they're open for business and it is unlawful for retailers to refuse containers unless:
- Containers are damaged to the extent that the brand cannot be read
- Contaminated with anything other than ordinary dust, water or contents.
Bottle return machines are provided for retailers' convenience. Even when machines are broken, retailers continue to have legal obligations to accept containers even if they have to hand count them.
|States first enacting|
a Bottle Bill
Deposits on refillable glass bottles were the norm well before the 1930s, at which time the disposable steel beverage can began to slowly displace glass. By 1960, almost half of U.S. beer was in cans, while only five percent of soft drinks were not in bottles.
Vermont passed the first "bottle bill" in 1953, but it only banned non-refillable bottles and did not introduce a deposit system. It expired in 1957 after beer industry lobbying.
British Columbia enacted North America's oldest beverage deposit system in 1970.
Beverage containers constitute as much as 58% of litter. States which have adopted bottle deposits have reduced litter as much as 64%. The container deposit system cost averages 1.53 cents per container (versus 1.25 cents for other collection systems) and are more than two and a half times more effective at recycling containers.
Oregon's bottle bill inspired similar laws in eight other states between 1972 and 1983. California activists attempted to pass a bottle bill beginning in the late 1970s but were blocked by recycling organizations. A modified bill passed in 1986. In 1991, Germany enacted an entirely different method which taxes manufacturers on the basis of the amount of packaging. Many German packagers now participate in the Green Dot program as a result of this.
By 1968, beer and soda companies were responsible for 173 million bottles and 263 million cans each year in Oregon.
Before the formal 1971 Oregon Bottle Bill, Oregon had already set up a less formal bottle return system that most stores and some of the public cooperated with. Inspired by the early Vermont bottle return system before it was repealed, Oregon's limited system paid 1 cent for beer bottles and cans and 3 cents for soda bottles and cans, and was started in the mid-1950s, and lasted through the rest of the 50s, throughout the 1960s and into the early 70s until the more formal and expanded Bottle Bill was enacted. The emphasis was on bottles, as bottlers were washed and re-used for fresh product sold to the public before health laws were enacted that stopped the re-wash system. And because of the low payout for the return of bottles and cans, and in spite of various anti-litter PSA advertising campaigns on Oregon television, only a relatively small percentage of Oregonians participated in the return of bottles and cans, and thus many bottles and cans still littered Oregon's highways and scenic areas throughout this entire early bottle-can recycling period.
Richard Chambers, a logging equipment salesman, collected litter during his hiking, climbing, and kayaking throughout the state. In 1968, he called Oregon State Representative Paul Hanneman, whom Chambers knew well, after he was inspired by a small newspaper article about British Columbia wanting to ban non-refundable bottles and cans. Chambers wanted a deposit on bottles and cans to encourage people to return them to the store.
Chambers began a letter-writing campaign, using non-ordinary stationery and stamps to draw the attention of his intended audience. Oregon House Bill 1157 was introduced and assigned to the House State and Federal Affairs Committee. Chambers brought in people to testify for the bill, including a river guide to testify about the amount of beverage package litter in the water, and a farmer who lost four cows because of ingestion of glass and metal shards from beverage containers. Beverage container materials companies and bottling companies fought the bill. Hanneman offered the compromise of not banning non-returnables but instead requiring a five-cent deposit as an incentive for return. By a 5 to 4 vote, the bill was sent to the House floor, where it fell 3 votes short of passage, with 27 of 60 members voting for it. Governor Tom McCall had already offered his support for the bill, so Hanneman asked McCall to help sway the House's vote in favor of passage. McCall refused, advising that he did not want a Bottle Bill in that legislative session. McCall planned to endorse the anti-littering campaign espoused by the Keep America Beautiful non-profit in 1970 and wait until 1971 to support the Bottle Bill. It has been written that this delay was intentional on McCall's part to make the bill his. After its defeat, Chambers continued his letter writing campaign.
After McCall refused to back the Bottle Bill in 1969, he sponsored the formation of non-profit SOLV—Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism. In 1971, it was reported that 75% of SOLV's budget was derived from organizations opposing the bottle bill. SOLV also received state funds.
In 1970, McCall initiated his own campaign for the Bottle Bill. Bill Chambers and Don Waggoner (1935–2016) worked to get the bill approved. Among opponents of the bill were grocery stores who feared financial strains with the processing of returns. John Piacentini, the owner of Plaid Pantry convenience stores, challenged people to return soda and beer bottles to his stores for a half cent. Piacentini said he hoped to be buried in litter; within two weeks, 150,000 cans were returned and McCall ordered National Guard troops to take the bottles and cans away. This helped allay grocery stores' fears.
The new bill, House Bill 1036, banned non-returnables and placed a five-cent deposit on bottles and cans containing beer, malt beverage, mineral and soda waters and carbonated soft drinks. The law went into effect on October 1, 1972.
In 1974, the state reported that litter of beverage containers had been by reduced by 83 percent.
1990s to present
In 1996, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have extended the bottle bill. In 2005, Republican Party Representative Vicki Berger (daughter of Chambers) introduced another bill to extend the bottle bill, but it was defeated in the Senate.
On June 7, 2007, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 707 into law, which added water bottles to the refund law. The law went into effect January 1, 2009. Of the nine states that had bottle bill laws at that time, only Maine, California, and Hawaii included water bottles.
The 2007 legislature also created a task force, charged with making recommendations for further updating of the Bottle Bill to the 2009 legislature. Updates under consideration in the late 2000s included adding products like wine and juice bottles, and increasing the refund amount from 5 cents.
The Container Recycling Institute estimates that 125 million disposable water bottles were sold in Oregon in 2005, more than the number of soft drink bottles, and the recycling rate for water bottles was 32 percent, compared with 82 percent for beer and soft drink bottles.
OLCC approved redemption center ran by distributors on an experimental basis in early 2010 where two locations were opened. One in Wood Village and another in Oregon City. By April 2017, there were 16 redemption stations.
In 2016, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) announced that the redemption value would be increased to 10 cents in April 2017, the first-ever increase. The change was triggered by a provision of state law enacted by the legislature in 2011, which says that the redemption value must be increased to 10 cents if the return rate for containers falls below 80 percent for two consecutive years. The return rate was 64.5% in 2015 and 68.3% in 2014. The return rate is not an indication of recycling rate. Containers recycled through curbside recycling is not accounted in the return rate.
The next change came into effect in January 2018, when additional categories of beverages were required to have a deposit.
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No person may remove source-separated recycling set out for collection — such as someone scavenging deposit containers
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3.4.12 Non-tenant use
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No, bringing any amount of out of state purchased cans and bottles in to Oregon for a refund is fraudulent per the Oregon Bottle Bill. A person does not have to be an Oregon resident to redeem containers in Oregon, but only beverage containers that were purchased in Oregon may legally be redeemed in Oregon. If you live out of state and purchase deposit eligible containers in Oregon, we advise to keep those receipts to present to BottleDrop staff upon request.
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- Larsen, Jacob (September 29, 2017). "Centralized Bend Bottle Drop has pros, cons". KTVZ.
Businesses say they have noticed a difference in the neighborhood ever since the Bottle Drop moved in.They feel it attracts transients, and they have seen a lot of people camping nearby.
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BottleDrop redemption centers will refuse to accept containers from individuals with Washington license plates who can’t prove they purchased the beverages in Oregon.
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Waggoner's interests led him to the Oregon Environmental Council, for which he served as a point person for a major victory: The "Bottle Bill" that Oregon adopted first in the mid-1970s, well before most other states. Waggoner, who led the effort with Rich Chambers, has said the measure "marked the beginning of the end for America's 'throwaway culture.'"
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- State of Oregon's website about the law
- Photo of Chambers Receiving an Environmental Award from McCall in 1974
- examples of included beverages
- examples of excluded beverages