Initial numbers show that bottle and can returns are up statewide after the deposit increased from a nickel to a dime on April 1.
Full statewide numbers aren’t in yet, but the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative is tracking how many bottles are returned to its Bottle Drop Centers.
The 20 centers, located around the state, give Oregonians three ways to redeem a 10-cent deposit: The familiar reverse-vending machines that accept old bottles and dispense cash, a counter at which bottles are hand-counted, and a system in which people can sign up for an account and then drop off bags of bottles.
This month people recycled on average about 1.5 million bottles a week at Portland’s Gateway Bottle Drop center, roughly double the weekly average for March.
Bottle Drop sites in Salem, Hermiston and Grants Pass also took in about twice as many bottles and cans in April as in March.
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The early numbers put the state's redemption and recycling rate on track to reach about 93 percent, up from 64 before the deposit increase, according to an estimate from the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative.
“Even if these numbers go down a little bit as people work through some of their bottles and their cans, we’ve still seen a dramatic increase in the recycling and redemption rate,” says Jules Bailey, the cooperative's chief stewardship officer.
Bailey says the cooperative initially chalked up the high volume to people depositing bottles they had hoarded after realizing that they could get 10 cents back for bottles they had only paid a 5-cent deposit on.
"But we continued to see a lot of volume, and it's been sustained," Bailey said.
The number of people who have signed up for so-called "green bag accounts," which allow people to redeem bags of bottles in one go, has also gone up dramatically.
Most Oregon communities also offer curbside recycling for bottles and cans. When people leave bottles in their curbside recycling bin or throw them in the garbage, bottle distributing companies get to keep the deposit. According to the Willamette Week, before the deposit went up, the bottling companies made roughly $30 million a year from unclaimed bottle deposits.
Bailey says the companies invest that money back into the recycling program, which is entirely privately funded.
Below are the early bottle return numbers the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative shared:
2017 through March approximate average (containers/week): 850,000
April approximate average: 1.55 million
Lancaster (Salem) BottleDrop
2017 through March approximate average (containers/week): 580,000
April approximate average: 1.1 million
2017 through March approximate average (containers/week): 230,000
April approximate average: 400,000
Grants Pass BottleDrop
2017 through March approximate average (containers/week): 300,000
April approximate average: 570,000