Lagging redemption rates in Oregon may spell the introduction of a 10-cent deposit on most beverage containers sold in the Beaver State by 2017.
The latest numbers from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) show Oregonians redeemed 68 percent of covered containers in 2014. That’s down from 2013’s redemption rate of 71 percent.
Under state law, consecutive years with redemption rates below 80 percent allow OLCC to raise the deposit from a nickel to a dime. OLCC administers and enforces the deposit program, and the switch to a dime could come early as January 2017.
Kelly Routt, a wholesale and manufacturer specialist at OLCC, told Plastics Recycling Update that internal discussions would begin in 2016, at which point the state agency will “look back on the past years and then make a determination at that time about raising the rate to 10 cents.”
At present, Oregon’s deposit program covers all bottled waters, sodas, beer and malt liquor. By 2018, it will expand to cover most metal, glass and plastic containers with the exception of liquor and wine bottles, milk jugs and some larger containers.
Cherilyn Bertges, a spokesperson for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), a recycling cooperative owned by beverage interests in the state, attributed the lagging redemption rates to inflation and “a relatively unpleasant experience returning containers” at grocery stores and retailers.
When it comes to plastic water bottles, which were added to the program in 2009 but were redeemed just 55 percent of the time in 2014, Bertges suggested consumers aren’t yet accustomed to turning them in.
“Even though it’s been a few years, there are still quite a few people we run across that don’t know that water’s part of the bottle bill,” Bertges said. “Or, if they’ve heard that plain water bottles are, they don’t know that flavored or mineral water is as well.”
“There’s just as a lot of confusion,” Bertges added.
She said OBRC is attempting to improve the redemption experience by working with stores that are required to provide redemption services and by continuing to build stand-alone redemption locations, known as Bottle Drop sites, throughout the state.
“We do think it’s likely that the deposit will go up to 10 cents,” Bertges stated.
The prevalence of curbside recycling is also affecting the state’s redemption rates, Bertges and others said. With Oregonians increasingly serviced by single-stream recycling collection, it’s become easier for residents to toss containers into their blue bins and carts.
“The nickel’s not all that much and people feel if they put it out to be recycled that’s enough,” said Peter Spendelow, a long-time solid waste analyst with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
What’s more, Spendelow added, is that “a good chunk” of plastic containers that go from curbside bins to material recovery facilities get crushed in the process and sorted as paper. “And they obviously won’t get recycled once that happens,” Spendelow said.