Oregon Bottle Bill

Carbonated beverage containers, like the plastic bottles shown here, are sold with refundable deposits.

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 glass, plastic or metal cans or bottles of all beverages except wine, liquor, dairy or plant-based milk, meal replacement beverages, and infant formula sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value (10 cents as of July 1, 2017). It is administered and enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.[1]

The law is credited with reducing litter and increasing container recycling. As a result, items which used to make up around 40% of roadside litter now represent about 6%. With return rates averaging 90%,[2] another major benefit is in waste reduction and resource conservation, particularly for aluminum. By comparison, states without similar bills recycle on average 33% of their containers.[3] Beverage distributors retain all deposits not reclaimed by consumers.

Oregon’s 1971 Beverage Container Act[4] (ORS 459A.700 to 459A.740)[5] was the first such legislation passed in the United States.[6][7] It went into effect on October 1, 1972.[8]


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.

  1. Water and flavored water
  2. Beer or other malt beverages
  3. Mineral waters, soda water and similar carbonated soft drinks.[9]

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, is 10 cents per container.[9] Excepted are:

  1. distilled liquor
  2. wine, including mead and hard cider over 8.5% ABV
  3. dairy milk, including chocolate milk, cultured milk such as kefir and buttermilk, and lactose free milk
  4. plant-based milks, including coconut milk (but not coconut juice)
  5. meal replacement beverages, like Boost and Ensure
  6. infant formula
  7. vinegar (except drinking vinegar)
  8. flavoring and condiments, including juices not normally drunk without mixing, like lemon and lime juice
  9. concentrates and syrup[10]

Deposit is initially collected by the manufacturer and charged at each transaction.[11] Unclaimed deposit is kept by the distributors.[12]

Retailer requirements[edit]

Retailers are required to refund deposit to consumer when they present containers. The requirements are divided into two categories. Retailers over 5,000 square feet and retailers under 5,000 square feet.

Retailers over 5,000 square feet, which include most supermarkets and thrift stores are legally required to redeem up to 144 cans per person per day provided that containers are from kinds of beverage they sell. Kind means beer/malt beverage and soda, water/flavored water. So, a sporting goods store that sells water and soda, but not beer, does not have to take beer cans.[13]

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:

  1. Containers are damaged to the extent that the brand cannot be read
  2. Contaminated with anything other than ordinary dust, water or contents.[14]

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 [15]

A recent trend in many markets in Oregon has been for stores that were previously required to accept returns to remove bottle return machines and instead refer customers to “Bottle Drop” facilities while refusing to accept returns. Many of these return facilities are located in remote industrial parks[citation needed]. This has eliminated the retailer’s role in returns and freed up floor space in stores, but has had the result of many customers simply throwing containers away rather than contending with the expense and time commitment to drive them to a return facility[citation needed]. [16] [17]


States first enacting
a Bottle Bill[18]
year state
1971 Oregon
1972 Vermont
1976 Maine
1976 Michigan
1978 Connecticut
1978 Iowa
1982 Massachusetts
1982 New York
1982 Delaware
1986 California
2002 Hawaii

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.[19]

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.[19]

British Columbia enacted North America’s oldest beverage deposit system in 1970.[20]

Beverage containers constitute as much as 58% of litter.[21]
States which have adopted bottle deposits have reduced litter as much as 64%.[22]
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.[23]

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.[24] In 1991, Germany enacted an entirely different method which taxes manufacturers on the basis of the amount of packaging.[25] 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.[26]


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,[27] 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.[28]

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.[28]

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)[29] worked to get the bill approved.[30] 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[31] deposit on bottles and cans containing beer, malt beverage, mineral and soda waters and carbonated soft drinks. More than 20 corporations sent lobbyists (some from the eastern United States) to fight the bill, and rumors of bribing state legislators circulated.[citation needed] Oregon legislators were put off by what they considered condescending Eastern tactics. One senator detailed her offer of a bribe while speaking on the Senate floor, which helped strengthen support for the Bottle Bill.[citation needed] The law went into effect on October 1, 1972.[8]

In 1974, the state reported that litter of beverage containers had been by reduced by 83 percent.[32]

Recent history[edit]

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.[33][34] Of the nine states that had bottle bill laws at that time, only Maine, California, and Hawaii included water bottles.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]

In 2016, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) announced that the redemption value would be increased to 10 cents in April 2017,[38] the first-ever increase.[39] The change was triggered by a provision of state law enacted by the legislature in 2011,[40] 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.[39] The return rate was 64.5% in 2015 and 68.3% in 2014.[38]

The next change came into effect in January 2018, when almost all beverages were required to have a deposit.[10]

Environmental groups are lobbying Oregon State lawmakers for the eventual inclusion of hard liquor and wine bottles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Oregon’s Bottle Bill”. Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
  2. ^ Department of Environmental Quality (2007). “Fact Sheet: The Expanded Bottle Bill” (PDF). Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2011-04-20.
  3. ^ Gitlitz, Jenny & Franklin, Pat. (2006) Container Recycling Institute. The 10 Cent Incentive to Recycle”
  4. ^ www.bottlebill.org Bottle Bills in the USA: Oregon. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  5. ^ www.bottlebill.org Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 459A. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  6. ^ “About the Bottle Bill”. Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  7. ^ Jones, Melissa (April 12, 2007). “Bottled Up”. Willamette Week. Archived from the original on May 27, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  8. ^ a b “Oregon’s Bottle Bill Succeeding”. Chicago Tribune. UPI. November 26, 1972. Section 1A, p. 20. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  9. ^ a b “ORS 459A”. State of Oregon. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  10. ^ a b “2018 Expansion FAQs” (PDF). Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  11. ^ “BottleBill.org – What is a bottle bill?”. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  12. ^ “BottleBill.org – Unclaimed deposits”. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  13. ^ “OREGON’S BOTTLE BILL : Retailers’ responsibilities” (PDF). Oregon.gov. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  14. ^ “OREGON’S BOTTLE BILL : Frequently Asked Questions” (PDF). Oregon.gov. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  15. ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2013-04-30. Retrieved 2013-04-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Tribune, Teresa Thomas Mail. “Faster, cleaner bottle return debuts”. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  17. ^ “BottleDrop is a new system for redeeming bottles and cans in Oregon”. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  18. ^ “Michigan’s Bottle Bill” (PDF). Michigan History magazine. May 2004. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  19. ^ a b “What is a bottle bill?”. Bottle Bill Resource Guide. Container Recycling Institute. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  20. ^ “British Columbia”. Container Recycling Institute. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  21. ^ “Bottle Bill Myths and Facts”. Bottle Bill Resource Guide. Retrieved 2008-07-07. citing Litter in Kentucky: A View from the Field., Solid Waste Coordinators of Kentucky, May 1999
  22. ^ Bottle Bill Myths citing 34-64% in Maine, U.S. General Accounting Office/Comptroller General of the United States, 1980-12-11
  23. ^ Bottle Bill Myths citing Understanding Beverage Container Recycling: A Value Chain Assessment Prepared for the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, Global Green USA, 2002-01-16, pp. Table ES-1
  24. ^ “Bottle Bill History”. Californians Against Waste. Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  25. ^ “All About Recycling”. How To Germany. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  26. ^ “Oregon Bottle Bill – A Brief History”. Recycling Advocates. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  27. ^ “An idea worth bottling”. The Register-Guard. June 30, 2002.
  28. ^ a b Walth (1994). Fire at Eden’s Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon story. Oregon Historical Society Press. pp. 253–263. ISBN 0-87595-247-X.
  29. ^ “Don Waggoner (1935 – 2016)”. Oregon Live. July 8, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  30. ^ “Don Waggoner, Leupold & Stevens exec and ‘Bottle Bill’ auteur, dies at 81”. Portland Biz Journal. July 10, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 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.'”
  31. ^ “Original Bottle Bill Text”. State of Oregon. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  32. ^ Mitchell, Jann (October 1, 1992). “Happy Birthday Bottle Bill”. The Oregonian. pp. F01.
  33. ^ Van Fleet, Toby (June 7, 2007). “Governor signs updated bottle bill”. Portland Tribune. Retrieved April 24, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ Casper, Beth (May 25, 2007). “House OKs bottle-bill expansion”. Statesman Journal. Retrieved May 27, 2007.[dead link]
  35. ^ Dain, Brad (May 25, 2007). “Ore. lawmakers back expanded bottle bill”. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved May 27, 2007.[dead link]
  36. ^ Steves, David (June 14, 2008). “Task force debates Bottle Bill changes”. The Register-Guard. Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  37. ^ Verespej, Mike (March 1, 2007). “Expanded bottle recycling bill likely in Oregon”. Container Recycling Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  38. ^ a b “Oregon Bottle Bill Redemption Value Increases to 10 cents Beginning April 1, 2017” (PDF) (Press release). Oregon Liquor Control Commission. July 22, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  39. ^ a b Pursinger, Geoff (July 29, 2016) [published online July 22]. “Oregon bottle redemption rate to double”. Hillsboro Tribune. pp. A1, A4. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  40. ^ Richman, Talia (August 5, 2016) [published online August 2]. “Bottle bill set to double its deposit”. The Oregonian. p. 1. Retrieved August 7, 2016.

External links[edit]