July 4, 2011

Oregon Bottle Bill Expanded

It seems like I’m always late to the good parties. I totally missed this in my inbox till yesterday. The new Oregon Bottle Bill was officially expanded June 9, 2011.

“Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law today the latest revision to the state's landmark bottle bill, which expands the scope of containers covered by attaching a nickel deposit to all beverages, including beer, soft drinks, water, juice and sports drinks”.(1)

I’m pretty excited about the bill’s expansion – how many more kinds of containers are included in this bill. (By the way, did you know Oregon was the first to pass a bottle bill in the US back in 1971?)(2)

Mind you, this change won’t take place right away – this will happen “no later than 2018”. The plan is for all glass, plastic and metal beverage containers except for milk, wine & liquor containers. I have to wonder why. It isn’t just because the formulations for the glass bottles differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, as we know glass soft drink and juice bottles are already made by different manufacturers. Is it because we already have ready and close recycling available for milk jugs and wine and liquor bottles? Is it because the nutritionists want to make sure we drink as much healthy milk as possible, and the state wants to be able to tax as much wine & liquor as possible? Cynical perhaps, but I can’t help wondering.

”Forty years after the state passed the country's first container deposit redemption law, HB 3145 goes far beyond an incremental update. In addition to the expanded coverage of new container types, the bill pilots a new system of stand-alone redemption centers for the state. The centers would be independent of retailers and was a critical component in securing support from the grocers' lobby, which had opposed previous expansions of the bottle bill. A pilot project will take place in a to-be-determined area with a population of less than 300,000, and would also ease the requirements of nearby retailers to accept beverage containers.

"The bottle bill is one of the most successful recycling devices ever invented, but it’s showing signs of age," said the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland), in an earlier prepared statement. "The redemption experience needs to be improved for consumers. More containers should be covered and the deposit should increase if recycling rates drop."

"This is only the second edit to the state's first-in-the-nation bottle bill during its 40-year lifetime. The first came just years ago, in 2007, when the Legislature added water bottles to the list of containers that Oregonians could return for their nickel deposit.

Lawmakers returned two years later hoping to expand the system further by adding containers for sports drinks, coffee, juice, tea and other beverages of that sort. Distributors and grocers balked, however, asking for more time to get the system used to the increased load that water represented.

Two years later, after two trial redemption centers proved highly popular, the former opponents lent their support to further expansion.

That support seems to have made all the difference; the legislation the governor signed Thursday was able to make it through both the Oregon House and Senate with bi-partisan, if not necessarily unanimous, support.

I found this interesting:
"The bill makes provisions for the deposit to be raised to 10¢ if the redemption rate falls below 80% for two consecutive years (as determined any time after January 1, 2016). At the time of the bill's passage, the redemption rate is 84%."(4)

Why make the deposit dependent on redemption rate? I’m sure there’s a good reason at the top of the legislative food chain, but I think it’s just going to confuse the average consumer. And what sort of message does it send to the average consumer? “Recycle fewer bottles, get more cash per bottle recycled”?
And the nickel deposit, first established along with the initial bottle bill in 1971, just isn’t what it used to be. I’ve heard that nickel back then is equivalent to a little over a quarter now. I’d be happy with a flat increase to a 10-cent deposit, especially since you know grocery stores will keep their 24-container-per-person-per-day rule. Though with the new redemption centers popping up, along with the automated bottle return machines, maybe that won’t be so much of an issue after all.(5)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy about the expansion of the bill, I’m happy about the additional redemption centers, I’m happy people from all sides worked hard to make this bill pass with as much integrity as it’s got (and didn’t let it get watered down to nothing), and I’m happy that legislators & industry are open to the idea of raising the deposit.

What do you think of this bill expansion?
Does your state have a bottle bill? If so, what does your bottle bill include? If your state doesn’t have a bottle bill, why is that? What do you think needs to happen for one to pass?

(1) Resource Recycling
(2) Oregon DEQ Oregon Bottle Bill: Then and Now
(3) OregonLive.com
(4) Bottle Bill Resource Guide
(5) KATU.com Get a sneak peek at the new bottle redemption center
(6) HB 3145

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