New Change for Oregon’s Bottle Bill

by Kevin Kasowski, Director of Foundations and Corporate Relations

Whenever I travel outside of Oregon, I appreciate living here even more. It’s not just the greenery, the cities and towns or the mountains and ocean. It’s the environmental ethic that so many Oregonians share.

When I’m out of state, I quickly notice things I don’t see here, like a lot more trash in city parks and along roadsides. I quickly find myself perplexed about what to do with the beer bottle in my hand and how much harder it is to recycle anything (and how many people simply don’t). Sadly, many other parts of the U.S. have never left the “throwaway society” behind.

“No deposit, no return.” OEC archives, 1972.

But Oregon did, in 1971. That year, Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) helped lead the way to adoption of our Bottle Bill.

OEC even had a burial service for “no deposit no return” throwaways (see photo). Curbside recycling followed a decade later. A whole movement toward “sustainability” then grew from this new environmental ethic.

Indeed, I’ve met many Oregonians who recycle with a passion. If environmentalism were a religion, recycling would surely be one of their sacred rites.

I’m not quite that holy. I confess that I dread hauling bottles and cans to the grocery store, often having to wait in line to feed them in one-by-one, only to have the machine fill or jam.

But not anymore. Times change, and even as the Bottle Bill deposit increases to a dime, it’s also now easier than ever to recycle thanks to a new BottleDrop program that I signed up for.

Now, I take my cans and bottles to the nearest BottleDrop, drop them off and go onto my next errand. BottleDrop attendants count the bottles and cans, saving me time and hassle. My refund gets added electronically to my account and I can redeem it for cash at any BottleDrop and many grocery stores.

But it gets better. You can also now donate your refunds to charity via the BottleDrop website. (Mine, of course, go to OEC which seems fitting since it helped put the Bottle Bill in place back in the day.)

So if you’re feeling a bit grumpy about the new dime deposit, make your life easier and set up an account at your nearest BottleDrop. You’ll get a double dose of feel-good: not just for recycling but for donating your refund to OEC so that it can keep advancing the next generation of Oregon’s environmental protections!

What difference does recycling cans and bottles make?
Think of it this way: 1 billion cans are recycled in Oregon via the Bottle Bill each year. If you laid those cans end to end in the median of I-5 at the California border, you would reach the Interstate Bridge to Washington in 18 days. If you kept stacking the cans over the course of a year, you’d have a wall 20 feet tall, from Portland to beyond Ashland. Over the 40+ year lifespan of the Bottle Bill, the wall down the middle of I-5 from Washington to California would be taller than the US Bancorp tower in Portland. Read more about the environmental impacts of Oregon’s Bottle Bill.

If the Bottle Bill had never been enacted, all of those containers would be in our landfills.

Read more about Oregon’s Bottle Drop Centers.

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