Ore. retailers get ready for bottle bill changes

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Starting Jan. 1, Oregonians will have to cough up an extra nickel when they buy a bottle of water.

Adding deposits for water containers is one of the major changes to the 38-year-old Oregon bottle bill that now covers beer and soda containers.

Legislation approved in 2007 law also allows customers to bring the empties back to any retailer that sells a particular product.

For example, if a store sells beer, it must redeem all types of empty beer cans and bottles. Previously the stores had to accept only the brands they sold.

"You can take it back everywhere, and that is a great advancement," said Jerry Powell, a longtime advocate of the Oregon Bottle Bill and editor of the Portland-based trade magazine Resource Recycling.

Grocers, distributors and producers are scrambling to prepare for the changes.

"We're moving frantically right now to be sure that we're as ready as we possibly can be," said Dan Floyd, Safeway's director of public affairs and government relations for Oregon. "But it's going to be difficult the first few months. No doubt about it."

Retailers have a number of concerns, among them the possibility that people will stock up on bottles before Jan. 1, paying no deposit, and then return them after the first of the year to collect.

Bottle bill advocate Powell, however, said that's unlikely. He said stores would probably end up collecting more deposits on water bottles than customers redeem, given that it will take some time for people to catch on.

Although these changes mark some of the first since the bill was adopted in 1971, they may not be the last.

A task force has recommended a number of additional changes to the 2009 Legislature. They include increasing the refundable deposit to a dime and further expanding the sorts of beverages covered.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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