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Oregon bottle deposits could double

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Four years ago, the Oregon legislature passed a new "bottle bill" mandating deposits double from five cents to 10 cents if the recycling rate falls below 80 percent two years in a row.


The deposit includes glass, metal and plastic bottles for water, beer, soda or carbonated soft drinks.


The deposit can't increase before January 1, 2017. And the first year that can be counted towards the two in a row for decreases is 2014. Data for that year hasn't been made available on line yet. John Anderson, president of the Oregon Beverage Re-cycling Corporation (OBRC), estimates the 2014 return rate is around 70 percent. He said the rate is on track so far in 2015 to be the same.


The return rate grew a meager .02 percent from 70.95 percent in 2012 to 70.97 percent in 2013. In the latter year, Oregonians returned only 57.9 percent of plastic containers, compared to 78.84 percent glass and 76 percent metal containers.


It's also required that bottles for redemption are dropped off at specific locations, not left for curbside pick-up and recycling.


This could hamper the state's efforts to increase redemption and therefore would increase chances of the deposit doubling in a few years. That means consumers will pay more for cans and bottles at the store, but they'll also get more if they return them. Andersen said the deposit increase is designed to lure people back to recycling centers.


Dr. Karen Ljungquist recycles her cans and bottles through the city. She said taking them to a recycling center is an inconvenience. She also said it's not a pleasant experience.


"It's like one extra step to do and then you have to wash them and keep them in your house and then put them in your car and it smells like old beer and its gross," she said.


Dr. Ljungquist said an increase in the deposit amount won't keep her from buying products in bottles and cans. She also said the increase in return amount won't influence her to return them.


"I don't think that would be enough financial incentive for me," she said.


Andersen said more and more people are turning away from recycling centers for the same reasons Dr. Ljungquist has.


He said the OBRC opened 11 Bottle Drop locations around the state since 2010. Those are recycling centers that aren't at grocery stores. He said 34 more are scheduled to open over the next eight years. Right now 30 percent of the state's return volume is coming from the Bottle Drop locations. Andersen said the goal is to get more people using those.


If a bottle deposit rate is triggered in Oregon, the state becomes second behind Michigan with a 10 cent rate. Andersen said the return rate in Michigan is more than 90 percent. Oregon's bottle bill is the first, and oldest in the country.


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