As a relatively recent "Oregonian", it's taken me a little while to figure out the whole bottle take-back program they have going on here. I first encountered the take-back program traveling through East Oregon last summer when my boyfriend and I stopped for some supplies at a Safeway. We had several glass and metal cans that we had been saving along the way to recycle and attempted to put them in the machine. Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how it worked.
After living in Portland for the last 10 months and doing quite a bit of research on this recycling program, I figured I'd save everyone else a headache and lay out how it works. Oregon has a long history of providing a bottle take-back program, with their first program beginning in 1971. They were the first state in the U.S. to offer 5 cents for every used soda can and glass bottle. Now over 45 years later, Oregon's program has expanded what it collects and upped the reward.
The Oregon government describes the current program as follows:
In general, a distributor charges a 10-cent deposit when it delivers beverages covered under Oregon’s Bottle Bill to a store, then the store charges a 10-cent deposit when it sells beverages to a customer. When a customer returns the empty containers to a store or redemption center, the store pays the customer 10 cents per container, and when the store returns the empty containers to a distributor, the distributor pays 10 cents per container to the stores.
The bottle deposit program provides an incentive for recycling in residential neighborhoods and encourages stores to collect and return the bottles for repayment. What that means for you, is that you're paying the 10 cent fee whether you want to or not so you might as well get back some of your money by turning the bottle in to a deposit station!
Anyone can participate by collecting eligible bottles and dropping them off at a near-by deposit station. Each bottle returned is worth 10 cents with some machines allowing a maximum of $14 collected each day. In general, bottles are deemed "eligible" if they house juice, water, beer, cider, soda, coffee, tea, kombucha, or sports drinks. They can be plastic or glass bottles, or metal cans. They also have to be at least 4 ounces and no more than 1.5 liters. Wine, spirits, milk, and non-dairy bottles are not eligible.
Once you have a pile of eligible bottles, look up where your nearest bottle deposit station is. Many grocery stores like Whole Foods and New Seasons will have them but make sure to check before going there. Bottle deposit station are also not open 24 hours so make sure to check the hours listed online as well.
Begin by inserting the bottles one at a time into the machine. The machine will spin the bottles around to read the barcode. If it is eligible, it will suck the bottle inside. If it is not eligible or the barcode isn't readable, it will spit it back out at you. Every time it sucks a bottle inside, it will credit you 10 cents and continue adding that up until you push the green "finished" button.
But let's say that you have a bottle that you know is eligible because you've turned it in before but that machine just won't read it. Well, the stores do offer hand counts for those very specific situations so you can bring the bottle directly inside to get credit for it.
Go through and put all of your bottles in until you've finished. You will see a total credit listed on the display window. Push the green button to print your receipt!
The machine itself doesn't give you any money which is why these stations are usually at grocery stores. That's also one of the reasons why the machines aren't open 24/7 because the grocery stores close at night too! You will need to take your receipt into the store and ask for the amount at the service desk. It's important to remember that the receipts can only be cashed in the same day so don't hold on to them to save them up. They will expire!
And that's it! Now you know how to use the bottle deposit program. Remember though, even if you choose not to haul your bottles to the deposit station, they are all still recyclable in your curbside bins. Do your part and keep them out of the landfill! Do you have a bottle take-back program where you live?