Salem area dedicates Good Cents, celebrates Bottle Bill
It’s as if our ancestors and mother nature told the clouds and the rain to stay away last week as dozens of people arrived at downtown Salem to celebrate public art and the legacy of Oregon’s 1971 Bottle Bill.
The crisp, mostly sunny day was perfect to commemorate the ground-breaking law, to learn about its impact today,and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Environmental Council. Our organization partnered with the City of Salem and the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative to commission Good Cents, a sculpture by celebrated Oregon artists Lillian Pitt, and Mikkel and Saralyn Hilde.
“I’m excited to welcome Good Cents,” said Mayor Chuck Bennett to the crowd, “and all that it represents to the people living here now and those who brought this monumental piece of environmental legislation to Oregon.”
The Pitt-Hilde team drew on Native basket designs, petroglyphs, and pictographs in the design,while also employing symbols referencing the bottle bill. Good Cents is intended to show respect for nature and sustainability and to inspire healing and understanding.
“Lillian speaks to us through her art, along with Saralyn and Mikkel, about our ancestors and the peoples of this land … I would like to help to dedicate this beautiful piece of work in this place today to our ancestors and to the land and to the rivers and waters we need to protect,”said Bud Lane, vice chair of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.
Pitt, who is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, moved to Portland in 1961; she said she remembers the Bottle Bill, “not only helped clean up the land, but then that nickel for each bottle helped some people—gave the kids—some spending money … I have so many memories of the planet and how’s it changed and how people have changed. Our goal has always been to improve.”
Good Cents is all about hope and celebration in honoring the good sense of all the people of Oregon,” said Saralyn Hilde, one of three artists who created the sculpture. She adds she hopes “people recognize the importance of the environment and how our actions affect the world in which we live in.”
The event is the second in a series from Oregon Environmental Council’s Art of Loving Oregon campaign, which included the celebration of Senate Bill 100 at the Sokol Blosser Winery last August. A 2019 event to dedicate a sculpture at Portland State University to commemorate the 1971 Bike Bill will be announced a later date.
For Salem, Good Cents is a brushed aluminum sculpture 10 feet in height, incorporating the use of recycled materials in its fabrication. It will be installed in Salem’s Mill Race Park, on the south side of Trade Street between High Street and Church Street.
“Public art, like public policy, belongs to all of us,” said Chris Darcy, chair of the City of Salem Public Art Commission, “and it causes us to think, to celebrate, to memorialize and to discuss. Good Cents does all of that.”
Former State Rep. Vicki Berger, whose father Richard Chambers is credited for the idea of the Bottle Bill, said the legacy of the legislation is just as important today as it was 47 years ago.
“We, as a world, are coming to understand that we have a garbage problem and the solution is for all of us to be responsible about this,” Berger said. “That’s what the bottle bill was about.”
As of this month, almost 300,000 Oregonians have signed up for Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative’s green bag program, which allows people to more easily drop off green bags filled with bottles and have the money deposit money added to a Bottle Drop account, said Joel Schoening, Community Relations Manager. Oregonians have donated almost $1 million through another program that allows people to select a nonprofit to receive 10 cents per bottle.
“What’s amazing about all of this, in light of today, all these things are happening that we wouldn’t have been able to see 30, 40, 50 years ago with the bottle bill,” Schoening said. “It’s created a statewide infrastructure that’s keeping plastics out of the ocean and funding nonprofits.”