April 19, 2010
Oregon approves first bottle and can "redemption center" for bottle bill returns
Oregon's Liquor Control Commission has approved the state's first bottle and can "redemption center" in Wood Village, eliminating bottle bill returns at three nearby grocery stores and bumping them to a new center for returns on Northeast Halsey Street.
The new center, a grocer-backed pilot project, is scheduled to open by the end of July. Oregon's big grocers dislike handling the messy collection of bottles and cans returned for nickel deposits under Oregon's 1971 bottle bill. They'd like redemption centers to replace returns at large stores throughout the state eventually.
The OLCC, which administers the bottle bill, approved the 3,000-square-foot center in a strip mall at 23345 N.E. Halsey St. last week. When it opens, it will supplant returns to three stores: Fred Meyer at 22855 N.E. Park Lane, Safeway at 2501 S.W. Cherry Park Road and Walmart at 23500 N.E. Sandy Boulevard.
The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, a coalition of grocers and distributors, will run the redemption center. The OBRC says the center will include two staff on duty and a higher limit on daily returns per recycler -- 200 containers a day for cash refunds; unlimited for account holders -- adding speed and convenience compared to grocery store returns.
Critics of redemption centers say people want the convenience of recycling the containers at the same place they shop. They favor allowing limited returns at the grocery stores in a redemption center's territory instead of eliminating them entirely.
The OBRC plans to start up other pilot projects before year end, and the pressure will be on to make them work. If they don't, the Legislature could choose to curtail the centers or force grocers to continue to accept returns even with a center nearby.
The Wood Village center will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.
Among other changes, the new center will allow individual recyclers, schools, churches and other groups to open accounts, with account holders receiving bar-coded labels and a plastic account card, similar to a gift card.
Account holders will then have the option to drop off labeled bags of bottles and cans, either during business hours or through an all-hours drop door that will open when account holders scan their card.
Within 24 hours, they'll get credit on their account, redeemable for cash through kiosks at the redemption center or at nearby participating stores.
Recyclers who want immediate cash credit will still be able to use the reverse vending machines, which the OBRC promises will be newer and faster. Staff will also count containers in bags of 50 containers or less and give cash refunds, said Alisa Shifflett, the OBRC's redemption center project manager.
Shifflett said the new system will make it easier for schools and other groups to hold can-collection fund-raisers. The centers will also be cleaner and have fewer machine malfunctions than the traditional return centers at grocery stores, she said.
"This is going to be a clean facility that doesn't smell poorly, and we'll have someone there to greet you and to make sure the machines are up and running," she said. "We really want it to be easy, so folks can just drop their returns and go and we'll do the rest."