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Thursday, January 1, 2009

The new bottle bill deal

Today the recent revisions to Oregon's beverage container deposit law take effect. As the waste manager at our house, I look upon this development with a mild sense of dread.

Now plastic water bottles will have a nickel deposit on them -- which means that tons and tons more plastic will go through the deposit process. Will the retailers, who clearly despise the entire deposit system, ramp up their return processing machinery to cope with the increased volume? Of course not. And so the grim scene in their parking lots will take on a new, greater scale. The ragged street people rattling their shopping carts full of oozing, stinking contagion left to them by the better-offs. The working-class folks cursing the filthy, creaking, banging machines as their feet stick to the gross pavement. The indifferent teenage grocery workers shirking instead of making the machines work properly. Now there will be twice as much of this.

For tightwads like me who refuse to give their deposit money away, the trips will be more painful -- even if we never buy bottled water. The only bright side is that retailers who sell soda will have to take back all deposit soda bottles; retailers who sell beer will have to accept all deposit beer containers; etc. When the infernal machines spit out your containers that they don't like, you bring them to the teenager and make him write you out a receipt by hand. Freddy's gets to take back Safeway cans now -- and like it, dammit. That part, I can't wait for.

The real losers here are likely to be places like New Seasons, who still have human beings count out the returns and write out the receipts. When the homeless people show up there with their cartloads of Kirkland water and Kroger soda bottles, they'll be able to demand service. Eventually, every chain will have about the same level of service. And as experience has amply shown, that level will stink, literally and figuratively.

I like the bottle bill. I agree that water bottles should be included -- wine, too -- and I think the deposit on all containers should be a dime. But without minimum standards for the retailers and meaningful state supervision of the process, it's another case of politicians throwing the consumer to the corporate wolves.

Comments (30)

A quarter. No less.

The milk bottles are $1.50.

A good practice to consider is returning bottles and cans to Safeway to be donated to their special causes. My lovely wife is addicted to Safeway's brand of Seltzer Water in a can. I guess the bubbles are just the right size or something. So after a few months we've collected 3 or 4 30-gallon bags of Safeway Seltzer cans! The money's already spent, and now it gets directed to cancer research or children's programs. I don't know, I think I'd spend more money in my time just waiting for the cans to be counted than in donating what I've already spent anyway!

Happy New Year!

If they gave receipts for these charitable donations, you'd be able to deduct them on your tax return. But to get the receipt, you'd have to wait for a count.

now we have nothing to fill our new gigantic recycling bin that was forced upon us.


I quit returning my bottles to the store when they instaled the "can't do" machines.

With our curbside recycling program it was really time to get rid of the bottle bill, rather than expand it. All it accomplishes in my neighborhood is to provide a source of revenue for the street drinkers.

There was a time I didn't mind subsidizing the winos and crackheads with my bottles, as the Safeway machines can't read the labels most of the time. This changed when they began hopping my fence and stealing my easier-to-sell cans, over and over and over again.

They even stole the can I kept the cans in, no doubt to facilitate hauling them to the store.

Then they graduated to stealing my lawnmowers. Yes, lawnmowers with an "s."

So, now, I take the time to scratch the entire label off of all my fancy imported beer bottles with a knife, rendering them unreturnable, before I put them in the bin. It's quite entertaining watching the same dude who used to hop my fence and rip me off get all agitated when he realizes what I've done. Thing is, he's too far gone to remember this from week to week, so it's a never-ending source of delight.

Call it cheap and cruel, but if you have been burglarized by the can zombies over and over again, you know...

One guy I knew tired of them repeatedly breaking into his garage, and nailed one in the ear with a BB gun. That particular can zombie made sure to kick my friend's room-mate's truck every time he made his rounds after that, though, so it was kind of a law of unintended consequences thing, ultimately.

Actually 80% of the people collecting cans in my neighborhood are not street drinkers. They are clean and don't make a mess. Many of them are driving cars. Many of them are obviously immigrants. In addition, the recycle guys collect returnables so recycling is achieved one way or another. It's a win win for me--I hate the machines too.

Redemption centers like in Calif. would be better.

I bag up my 2 litre bottles of club soda and ginger ale (a nice mix if you've never tried it!) and place them at a certain spot at my Mom and Dad's house. Rural Hillsboro. They are picked up by a man on a bicycle (not a street person, he has a home but no car) and he uses the bottle income to supplement what I am sure is a meager income. Not all people who pick up cans and bottles are street people or 'drinkers' - some really need the $20 bucks a month that they can make watching for cans and bottles that the rest of us are too affluent to bother with.

If indeed the new legislation prohibits a retailer from 'refusing' a refund for the bottle rebate because it comes from a different grocery, I think that's GREAT! Our bicycle friend won't have to go to more than one grocery to redeem his bottles.

"And so the grim scene in their parking lots will take on a new, greater scale. The ragged street people rattling their shopping carts full of oozing, stinking contagion left to them by the better-offs. The working-class folks cursing the filthy, creaking, banging machines as their feet stick to the gross pavement."

Is this Portland, or Mogadishu? Just give them to a homeless person. They need the money and you're out a couple bucks. Big deal.

My Fred Meyer machine in Salem is great. It has a "dump hopper" that lets you deposit an entire bag at once. I can get $20 done in 5 minutes.

FYI, stores under 5,000 square feet can limit returns to what they sell, and may refuse to take more than 50 per day per person. So, please, have a heart with your local Quik-E-Mart!

I agree, redemption centers would be a nice option.

The Oregon state law limiting a person to 144 returns per day always struck me as pretty odious. We used to have big parties sometimes, and save all the empties for like six months at a time. I work a lot, nights, and don't have time to make a separate trip up to that filthy MLK Safeway return room for each measly $7.20.

So I usually wound up getting about 20 or 25 bucks worth of receipts for my cans, right ? I'd have to screw around, loitering, going through all these different lines and coming back around again, hoping that the checkers wouldn't care enough to bust me on it.

Yeah, huge centralized redemption centers with a more reasonable bulk return policy of say 25 bucks, sure would be nice.

Think of the gas it would save, what with less trips up there being necessary.

Oh, wait a minute, that's right...oil and fuel are getting much, much cheaper than they used to be, contrary to the predictions of the Y2Kunstlers of the world. Greg Palast was right...the peak oil scare was just another an oil company scam. Different subject.

But less trips to the filthy MLK Safeway can room would be nice, anyway.

The nanny city government in Portland probably has health department, fire bureau, and building code rules that are being violated by the bottle return operation at more or less every big grocery store in town. While Fireman Randy and the boys are bullying businesses they don't like, it would be nice if they forced the retailers to clean up their acts in this regard. I couldn't think of a greener thing to do than to make recycling easy and pleasant.

State-controlled redemption centers really are a superior answer to the current foolishness. But there are people making big bucks on the current setup, and obviously the wimps in the Legislature are beholden to them.

If you are putting out your redeemable cans and bottles for scavengers, please reconsider. We had terrible problems on our street and the surrounding area: homeless people camping out and in at least one instance moving into someone's garage; smash-and-grab thefts from autos even during the daytime; people sifting through recycling and garbage for personal information which can be used for identity theft, or sold or traded for drugs; petty thefts of anything not nailed down; trespassing; defacation in people's yards in broad daylight; drinking and littering. Now, many of our neighbors have fenced off their property and locked their garbage and recycling bins. The people who were putting out cans and bottles for scavengers apparently were not aware that it was causing problems because it was not causing problems for them, but for their neighbors.

In my neighborhood they have graduated to cracking open sliding patio doors and pilfering laptops and game consoles in broad daylight. Two apartments next to me were hit a few days before Christmas. In one case, they even spent enough time in there to find a money lockbox, but left a 42" TV in the living room. Too hard to carry I guess. Glad I have that 2x4 keeping my patio door closed.

I'm not rich, but returning bottles has become a nightmare and I won't do it anymore for the miniscule return. Convenience markets have refused to take bottles they consider not clean enough (they were rinsed), punctured by a dog tooth (they're not going to reuse a plastic bottle, are they? and the bar code and label are still intact), or AT ALL. One market owner pointed to a homeless person behind me and said, "Give bottles to that man!"

My final last attempt to return bottles was went like this:

I walked 20 blocks first to the Fred Meyer on W. Burnside but half the machines were broken and the other half were in use by one homeless man. I pulled the soles of my shoes loose from the 2" of sticky pavement and continued south to the (then) shiny new Safeway where all but one of the machines that would take bottles were out of commission. When the final machine jammed, I pushed the button, pushed the button, pushed the button and nobody came. After 15 minutes, I went into the store but was told that there wasn't anybody who could come out and fix it. Eventually a bag boy was found to count the bottles by hand. Three slips in hand, I waited in a long line to redeem them. By that time, I really had to find a restroom but - surprise - the Safeway restrooms were out of commission as well! I had to race for the Schnitz where it looked (by their reactions) as though I wasn't the first Safeway customer who had sought relief in their facilities.

Total time spent: about 3 hours. Total money redeemed: $2.00.

Stores will do the bare minimum because there seems to be 0 reward for accepting, recycling and storing masses of beverage containers.

I'm guilty of putting my redeemable bottles out next to our apartment dumpster - never many and never very often but they are always gone very quickly. We don't seem to have the difficulties that others have expressed with theft, etc. If the overwhelmingly quiet, efficient bottle gatherers in my neighborhood are willing to negotiate the exhausting and time-consuming gauntlet of bottle return in Portland they are more than welcome to the fruits of their labors.

Here's what I do to my bottles:
1) Remove label.
2) Soak in iodine solution.
3) Light dishwasher cycle, no soap.
4) Fill with homebrew.
5) Cap.
It has drastically reduced the scavengers from digging through my recycling bin.

NW Portlander: You can recycle your redeemables at the Transfer Station at NW 15th and Quimby, under the 405 overpass, Tuesday through Saturday. No waiting. It won't necessarily keep scavengers from fishing them out of the bins, although there is usually an attendant on duty, but it will help keep scavengers out of the residential areas of Northwest and cut down the crimes of opportunity which are occurring.

I saw jack it up to $0.50 or $1 per bottle/can/etc and then change it so any unclaimed money is donated to charity instead of letting the distributors keep it.

As a side note I noticed that a bunch of water bottles at WinCo yesterday weren't labeled with the OR 5 cent deposit, which means they were illegal to sell. I noticed that had put stickers on some, and in some cases just a single sticker on a multi-pack. Should make for some interesting return things. "I'm sorry it doesn't say or 5 cent deposit on it so I can give you the 5 cents." "But you charged me for it when I bought it." I guess you can just print up some deposit stickers yourself and label all the water bottles you have from years ago for return. ;)

There is also the issue of some stuff being labeled before 1/1/09, in which case you can legally collect the 5 cents even though you didn't pay it.

I've rarely seen the late night can collectors make a mess or camp out on the corner, let alone steal stuff from our fenceless backyard, non-gated community, and unlocked vehicle.

Yeah Forest, i'm with you. These folks are going to be rolling around looking for bottles whether or not they are put out for them. Maybe if there were some city/neighborhood wide action on the issue (which i highly doubt) they are here to stay. On this heavily traveled avenue in se leaving bottles out doesn't change the situation a lick.

Forest and Ian: Just wait. My neighbors and I are seeing fewer scavengers than in the past. It's slim pickings around here. They'll eventually make their way to wherever it is you live. Be patient.

I know when I lived closer in, where there were sidewalks we had a number of scavengers come through. It was a good reminder to me that it was garbage/recycle night when I heard the carts go through late at night...

But I lost a number of curby bins, and other items in the yard while they came through finding stuff...

One time, in broad daylight, we even saw one come behind the fence and he grabbed the curby full of bottles and cans and ran off and got on the next TriMet bus...

Now I keep them in garbage sacks in the garage and take them to New Seasons to donate to the "Cans for Kids" program. Though I need to go more often, as they were sort of overwhelmed by my last drop off which was an entire truck load full.

Here's what I do to my bottles:
1) Remove label.
2) Soak in iodine solution.
3) Light dishwasher cycle, no soap.
4) Fill with homebrew.
5) Cap.
It has drastically reduced the scavengers from digging through my recycling bin.

Martin, you've inspired me to clean out the old 5 gallon carbouy stored in my attic and brew something up later this winter. Maybe a barleywine...maybe some mead, hydromel or even a metheglyn.

Where does it state in the bottle return law that only 144 ($7.20) cans/bottles/etc can be returned at on time per day per person. I would really like to know!!!!

Where does it state in the bottle return law that only 144 ($7.20) cans/bottles/etc can be returned at on time per day per person.

See FAQ #6 :


I went round and round with both Freddies and Safeway on this. For a while, that filthy MLK Safeway can room had little signs pasted up on those grubby machines with the actual Oregon statute cited, just in case anyone had any doubt.

The particular Safeway policy that really got me steamed was the part about 144 per day. Under that law, they can refuse to redeem your receipts at a later date. You have to cash them in that day, at that particular store, and yes they are coded so that the employees can tell.

Say you had a whole truckload of cans...I used to get away with this before the sonsabitches tightened the rules down...and processed all of them, getting 28 dollars worth of receipts. You go inside, and as you are in a hurry, you only redeem one $7.20 receipt, the maximum allowed, planning to come back later in the week and cash the others.

Under this law, they can refuse to cash your other three receipts later on, or at other stores, period end of story. You must spend time and fuel going up to that filthy room for each and every $7.20, once daily.

The deposit just needs to go away. People are smart enough to know that cans and bottles are recyclable. I've just been putting them in the recycling at home for the past 3-4 years or so, simply because the conditions in the bottle return areas are intolerable.

Alex: You should buy your cans and bottles in Washington with no deposit, so at least you don't lose anything by recycling them at home. Of course that would make it illegal for someone to take them out of your recycle bin and redeem them. (Though as far as I can tell there is not currently any way for anyone to know if your can/bottle came from Washington or not.)

We will probably try to do the big bottle delviery service route. I sure wish Arrowhead delivered cooler bottles in Salem.

With home delivery, I'm not sure it so green; but with the hassle of can return, and can't figure better way of avoiding time speng in the line of people returning bottles.

The time spend waiting barely approaches minimum wage, and typically, (at Fred Meyer, Salem) the techical difficulties outweight the time benefit ratio.

Anybody know of any bottled water servide delivery?

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