Deposit containers collected in Oregon at the OBRC sorting facility outside Portland. | Dan Leif/Resource Recycling

Oregon residents turned in over 2 billion beverage containers in 2022, an 88.5% preliminary redemption rate for one of the country’s most successful bottle and can redemption systems.

According to the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative’s (OBRC) 2022 annual report, about 164.8 million pounds of material were processed in 2022, coming in from 26 full-service BottleDrop Redemption Centers, 94 bag drop locations and a system of reverse vending machines and store hand-counts. Bag drops allow customers to return their recyclable materials in bags, for later sorting.

The report noted that the percentage of containers returned through the BottleDrop network stabilized in 2022, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused retail return suspensions in 2020 and 2021.

Overall, OBRC processed 11.4 million bags of used containers. Participation in the program has been growing, and OBRC recently rolled out updated customer-facing technology to keep up with the stream of incoming bottles and cans. In 2022, 117,831 new BottleDrop accounts were created, the report noted. 

In 2021, Oregon had the highest redemption rate in the nation: 80.6%. The 2022 rate is still preliminary; OBRC submits final data in June of each year.

Paying it forward

The program also focuses on giving back to the community. Customers can choose to donate their deposits to various charities by purchasing blue bags and tagging them with the charity’s information. 

In 2022, 5,565 nonprofits participated, an 18% increase from 2021. Oregon residents turned in 534,641 blue bags, a 4% increase from 2021, raising just over $3.8 million for those nonprofits. A further $1.3 million came into the program through fundraising. OBRC’s Emergency Fund also helped raise $125,000 to support refugees in Ukraine in 2022. 

BottleDrop is partnered with the Oregon College Savings Plan, allowing customers to deposit their return money into a higher education savings account. OBRC announced the program recently reached $1 million saved for higher education, three years after the program launched. 

Jules Bailey, OBRC’s president and recently promoted CEO, said in a press release that Oregon “is the only place in the world where people can so directly connect recycling and environmental stewardship with education savings.” 

“The power of Oregon’s Bottle Bill, coupled with the creativity of the State Treasurer’s Office, made way for a truly unique partnership that is helping families across Oregon save for education,” he added. 

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