The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Friday voted to double the value of redeemable beverage containers from 5 cents per bottle to 10 cents. The new rate takes effect April 1, 2017.
The ruling comes at the direction of House Bill 3145, which requires the OLCC to increase the value if redemption rates dip below 80 percent for two straight years. Data from the OLCC shows redemption rates dropped to 68.26 percent in 2014 and 64.45 percent in 2015.
Therein lies the key term: redemption. This is not - and has never been - about recycling; it's simply another method of taxation, as has been observed previously here. As originally implemented in Oregon, the "Bottle Bill" obligated retailers to accept returned containers of beverages that they sold (containers not sold by that retailer were ineligible for redemption) and refund the deposit to the consumer. And as might be expected, retailers and distributors began to seek ways around it.
Originally, containers were hand-counted, but that consumed too much staff time. So the retailers and distributors formed the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and moved to so-called "reverse-vending" machines in order to shift the burden of redemption from the retailer to the consumers, who were then required to stand out in the weather and feed containers into the machines (while fending off yellow-jackets during summers). This approach had the effect of reducing retailer staff resources, apart from those frequent occasions when the machines jammed or collection bins maxed out - but this, too, was an improvement for the retailers while simultaneously adding to overall consumer inconvenience.
At around this time, mandatory recycling was implemented in many areas around the state; in some areas, such as Portland, it's more draconian than in other areas, such as Tigard: in Portland, the benevolent bureaucrats determined that garbage would be picked up no more often than twice per month, but recycling materials would be picked up weekly (in effect cutting garbage service by half while requiring the same monthly payment fee structure). By contrast, nearby Tigard retained weekly pickup services for trash, yard debris, glass, and mixed recyclables with no change in fee structure. But then, unlike Portland, their goal seems to be to provide services rather than to serve as a "national model".
In any case, given the hassle associated with redeeming containers at the stores, many consumers decided that it wasn't worth the few nickels given the time and frustration involved, and so took to simply including their bottles with the glass recycling and their cans and plastic bottles with the mixed materials recycling. This is exactly the effect that retailers and (especially) distributors had hoped to achieve, but they weren't done yet:
In order to further inconvenience consumers and further depress redemption rates, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative began installing "redemption centers" in out-of-the-way locations, touting the fact that at these centers, consumers could redeem as many as 360 containers per day, and it didn't matter which retailer sold them. Meanwhile, retailers stopped redeeming containers.
As an example of what this means to the consumer, note that within 1.5 miles of our home there are over a dozen retailers who sell - among other things - beverages. By contrast, the nearest "redemption center" is five miles away and sited on a packed highway, thus further reducing consumer redemption incentives. And that's happening all across the state. So consumers have been steadily increasing recycling of containers while reducing redemption. In other words, everything is going as planned, and container deposits will double this coming April as a result of decreased redemption.
Wait - what do you mean, it's all going as planned?
It's all about the money: in Oregon, distributors keep all unclaimed deposits. The low return rates are because many are recycled without going through the refund channel (it all ends up in the same place anyway).
The distributors, beginning April 1, get to double their take.
It has noting to do with recycling, although that is precisely how the bill was peddled.