To help fulfill their requirements under the Oregon bottle bill, beverage distributors joined together and formed the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) in 2009. Prior to the creation of OBRC, 100% of containers returned in Oregon were redeemed by consumers at retail stores. In the last dozen years, however, that number has changed dramatically, with over 80% of container returns now coming through the OBRC BottleDrop network. BottleDrop sites operate as full-service collection centers and take in containers through self-serve machines. Users can also choose to have staff hand-count their containers and receive cash refunds immediately. Alternatively, customers can leverage the OBRC Green Bag system to drop off material at 66 retail collection points, and these containers are machine-counted and credited into the customers’ BottleDrop accounts within seven days.
Currently, 25 BottleDrop centers operate across Oregon, and all use automation and technology to sort and compact containers on-site. This month, one renovated site is set to open in Portland, featuring a rapid bulk-counting system that uses artificial intelligence to recognize containers as they pass by on a conveyer belt. Instead of putting containers through reverse vending machines one at a time, users will be able to empty containers onto the conveyor and have them instantly counted, getting cash immediately. The chart below illustrates how the growing number BottleDrop sites have worked alongside other program improvements – such as increasing the deposit amount to a dime and expanding the program to include more container types – to greatly increase the number of redeemed containers in the state.
This article appeared in the October 2022 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.