Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Bottle Bill Is Broken


When I first moved here nearly two and a half decades ago I was delighted that Oregon had a bottle bill.  Having come from a state where bottles and cans were routinely thrown in the trash; this state was the leader in forward thinking.  Back then one would take their bottles to the grocery store and a bottle clerk would count what you brought in and give you a slip to be cashed in at the register.

 Several years ago the process became automated and hulking machines were brought in to count your cans and bottles.  The problem is these machines are operating in a sticky environment and they break down often, so no sooner than a clerk clear and reset a machine and starts walking back to the store another machine jams.

I live on a back road where people who want to drink while driving will use the route by my house to imbibe and in an effort to destroy any evidence they toss their cans and bottles out the window rather than risk being caught by the police with an empty container on board.  It’s their five-cent insurance premium.  There are folks that walk the road occasionally and pick up the cans and bottles, but as I ride my horse down the road I’ve calculated that there is often around $3.00 of containers per mile.

I went to Fred Meyer last night with a large accumulation and I had to wait for three jams to be cleared for the two people in front of me before I was even able to step up and jam the machine four times myself.  The other bottle machine was broken.  I finished most of the glass bottles I had and all of the cans in the bulk machine.  I still had plastic bottles in the truck as it was getting dark.  I had enough so I gave the remainder of the bottles to a pensioner who came with more returns than I had.

This makes me question if people are really disposing of their cans and bottles on the road because they don’t want to be caught with them, or if it just isn’t worth the five-cents to deal with the aggravation of turning them in.  I thought that once water and juice bottles were added to the bottle bill the state was going to create return centers where that all that was done, accepting returns.
The bottle bill was set up to prevent litter, and that doesn’t seem to be working.  I wonder how Washington roads look.  They don’t have a bottle bill and I don’t think they have a problem.  Folks in Washington are avid recyclers.  It would be much easier if we could drop the five-cent deposit and trust us to recycle.


Blogger Auntie said...

I can tell you that the back roads where I live are littered with the debris of Busch Lite cans and other containers that once held such foul liquids.

7:54 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Here you have to gather up at least half a ton of aluminum to make it worth your while bringing it in. Most people don't even bother. I always bring my water bottles home to recycle them and throw in all of the bottles and cans and cups that get thrown in my yard.

8:09 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Auntie, there are those who recycle and those who litter regardless of the refund.

Darev, at 40 cents a pound it's easier to just recycle it with the tin cans and plastics.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taking cans/bottles back to the store is my most hated chore. Right now I have 4 large containers full in my garage. Fred Meyer is the absolute worst for keeping up their machines. The area is filthy and reeks of stale beer.


8:24 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I used to fund a scholarship with cans and bottles. I raised about $350 every year, but I got tired of the constant bags of returns in my garage as well. I wish some fund raisers dealt with them. The Astoria High School Band used to and I used to take them sever bags every year and I'd gladly do it again.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I can't count the amount of times that the machines jam each day. I truly think it is a scam by the manufacturers of the machines that they do breakdown so much. These machines cost around 12k each. That is a scam all by itself, but add the constant repair calls, and the scam multiplies. Someone needs to develop a machine that can handle the nasty syrup that is left in cans along with the used needles. But if they did that, they wouldn't get their revenue from the repair calls. Don't blame the stores or the employees, it is one of the nastiest tasks to keep those machines running each day.

It is also one of the most potentially dangerous with the constant supply of used needles stored in the cans.

7:33 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Jeff, I'm not blaming the employees, I feel badly for them, and I tell them every time they are called back. The stores on the other hand should realize how much this is really costing them.
Do you recall when they started adding water bottles to the deposit rule? Wasn't the state going to have drop-off sites or am I imagining this?

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

They are still testing central drop off centers in a few locations around the state. I hope that a full roll out comes to fruition sooner than later!

8:47 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Deposit containers are recycled at a far higher rate than non-deposit containers, so it is beneficial from a recycling standpoint. The reverse vending machines are almost universally disliked and may be phased out in coming years, pending results of the redemption center pilots referenced above. Bottled water was added to the deposit system in 2009. The refund value may be increased to $.10 in 2017. If it had kept pace with inflation, each container would be worth about 26 cents! All other beverages containers except wine, liquor, milk and milk substitutes within the size range (4 oz to 1.5 liters) may be added by 2018. Bottle bill updates are long overdue, but even with the low deposit value, it has significantly benefited both litter and recycling.

For more info:

1:36 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

It's unfortunate that the public has to wait this long. The present system isn't user friendly and may be doing more harm to the goal. Thank you Jeff and Unknown for the updates. Perhaps local charities can take up the cause. I'd gladly donate all my cans and bottles to them.

1:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home