January 27, 2011
Oregon observes 40th anniversary of the bottle bill
Forty years ago, the governor of Oregon signed into law a bill aimed at making "no deposit, no return" a thing of the past. Since then, it's been emulated and held up as a powerful tool to increase recycling.
In 1971, in response to a groundswell of popular support for environmental issues, Tom McCall, the Republican governor of Oregon, approved a Republican-sponsored bill that implemented a novel way of decreasing litter while increasing recycling rates. Popularly referred to as the "bottle bill," the law tacked on a nickel deposit to beer and soft drink containers sold or offered in the state, giving a strong incentive for consumers to pick up and recycle their empties.
Since then, the effort has been widely hailed as a success in reducing litter and increasing recycling. Ten other states subsequently passed similar laws. According to Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, recycling of covered containers tops 85 percent in the state – much higher than in states that lack bottle bills. Although several efforts to enlarge the scope of the collection program have been thwarted, in the following years PET beverage containers and water bottles were added to the program. Additionally, a bill to extend the bottle bill to include juice and sports-drink containers will be considered this year.