Remembering Don Waggoner

By Kevin Kasowski 

Here at OEC, we’re raising a bottle in memory of Don Waggoner, an early OEC activist, board member and OEC President who passed away suddenly this week at his home in Portland.

Long before sustainability became one of Oregon’s hallmarks, back in 1971, Don was OEC’s point person for one of OEC’s first major victories – the adoption of the nickel deposit Bottle Bill – that was spread to other states nationally as well. Don, along with Rich Chambers, led this effort.

As Don noted in a recent Oregonian editorial, the Bottle Bill marked the beginning of the end for America’s “throwaway” culture. Before the bill, “no deposit, no return” bottles and containers made up approximately 40 percent of roadside litter.

Bottlers fought the bill tooth and nail, of course. Some 20 companies, many from the Northeast, dispatched lobbyists to Salem to stop it, Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of Don and other citizen activists, Oregon lawmakers stood up to special interests and passed the Bottle Bill with bipartisan support after two legislative sessions.

As Don wrote: “The bottle bill was from another time in Oregon’s history that we should reconsider: It showcased the great work that can be accomplished when we set aside partisanship and fight for what makes Oregon great.”

Today, cans and bottles are only about 6 percent of roadside litter in Oregon.  Or, to look at it another way, imagine a wall of cans eight feet high in the median of I-5 all the way from the Columbia to the California border. That’s how many cans would have been thrown away in Oregon by now if there were no Bottle Bill!

So tonight, when you go home and open an Oregon microbrew or a can of something cool to drink, pause for a moment and whisper a word of thanks to Don. We are all in his debt for his courage and persistence in setting Oregon on the path toward a more sustainable future and for empowering all of us to be part of the solution.

Here’s to you, Don!

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