Oregon Bottle Bill
The Oregon Bottle Bill is a container-deposit legislation passed in the U.S. state of Oregon in 1971 and amended in 2007. It requires cans, bottles, and other containers of carbonated soft drink, beer, and (since 2009) water sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value. It is administered and enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
The law is credited with reducing litter and increasing container recycling. As a result, items which used to make up around 40% of roadside litter now represent about 6%. With return rates averaging 90%, another major benefit is in waste reduction and resource conservation, particularly for aluminum. By comparison, states without similar bills recycle on average 28% of their containers. Beverage distributors retain all deposits not reclaimed by consumers.
Any beverage of the following kinds under 3 liters sold in Oregon is required to carry a deposit, which as of 2013 is 5 cents per container.
- Water and flavored water
- Beer or other malt beverages
- Mineral waters, soda water and similar carbonated soft drinks.
Retailers are required to refund deposit to consumer when they present containers. The requirements are divided into two categories. Retailers over 5,000 square feet and retailers under 5,000 square feet.
Retailers over 5,000 square feet, which include most supermarkets and thrift stores are legally required to redeem up to 144 cans per person per day provided that containers are from kinds of beverage they sell. Kind means beer/malt beverage and soda, water/flavored water. So, a sporting goods store that sells water and soda, but not beer, does not have to take beer cans.
Retailers under 5,000 square feet (small shop, convenience stores and like) are allowed to limit the quantity to 50 containers per person per day. They can also limit them to the brand and size they sell.
Within these limitations, retailers are required to accept containers all hours they're open for business and it is unlawful for retailers to refuse containers unless: A.) Containers are damaged to the extent you can't identify the branding. B.) Contaminated with anything other than ordinary dust, water or contents.
Bottle return machines are provided for retailers' convenience. Even when machines are broken, retailers continue to have legal obligations to accept containers even if they have to hand count them 
|States first enacting
a Bottle Bill
Deposits on refillable glass bottles were the norm well before the 1930s, at which time the disposable steel beverage can began to slowly displace glass. By 1960, almost half of U.S. beer was in cans, while only five percent of soft drinks were not in bottles.
Vermont passed the first "bottle bill" in 1953, but it only banned non-refillable bottles and did not introduce a deposit system. It expired in 1957 after beer industry lobbying.
British Columbia enacted North America's oldest beverage deposit system in 1970.
Beverage containers constitute as much as 58% of litter. States which have adopted bottle deposits have reduced litter as much as 64%. The container deposit system cost averages 1.53 cents per container (versus 1.25 cents for other collection systems) are more than two and a half times more effective at recycling containers.
Oregon's bottle bill inspired similar laws in eight other states between 1972 and 1983. California activists attempted to pass a bottle bill beginning in the late 1970s but were blocked by recycling organizations. A modified bill passed in 1986. In 1991, Germany enacted an entirely different method which taxes manufacturers on the basis of the amount of packaging.
By 1968, beer and soda companies were responsible for 173 million bottles and 263 million cans each year in Oregon.
Before the formal 1971 Oregon Bottle Bill, Oregon had already set up a less formal bottle return system that most stores and some of the public cooperated with. Inspired by the early Vermont bottle return system before it was repealed, Oregon's limited system paid 1 cent for beer bottles and cans and 3 cents for soda bottles and cans, and was started in the mid-1950s, and lasted thru the rest of the 50s, throughout the 1960s and into the early 70s until the more formal and expanded Bottle Bill was enacted. The emphasis was on bottles, as bottlers were washed and re-used for fresh product sold to the public before health laws were enacted that stopped the re-wash system. And because of the low payout for the return of bottles and cans, and in spite of various anti-litter PSA advertising campaigns on Oregon television, only a relatively small percentage of Oregonians participated in the return of bottles and cans, and thus many bottles and cans still littered Oregon's highways and scenic areas throughout this entire early bottle-can recycling period.
Richard Chambers, a logging equipment salesman, collected litter during his hiking, climbing, and kayaking throughout the state. In 1968 he called Oregon State Representative Paul Hanneman, whom Chambers knew well, after he was inspired by a small newspaper article about British Columbia wanting to ban non-refundable bottles and cans. Chambers wanted a deposit on bottles and cans to encourage people to return them to the store.
Chambers began a letter-writing campaign, using non-ordinary stationery and stamps to draw the attention of his intended audience. Oregon House Bill 1157 was introduced and assigned to the House State and Federal Affairs Committee. Chambers brought in people to testify for the bill, including a river guide to testify about the amount of beverage package litter in the water, and a farmer who lost four cows because of ingestion of glass and metal shards from beverage containers. Beverage container materials companies and bottling companies fought the bill. Hanneman offered the compromise of not banning non-returnables but instead requiring a five-cent deposit as an incentive for return. By a 5 to 4 vote, the bill was sent to the House floor, where it fell 3 votes short of passage, with 27 of 60 members voting for it. Governor Tom McCall had already offered his support for the bill, so Hanneman asked McCall to help sway the House's vote in favor of passage. McCall refused, advising that he did not want a Bottle Bill in that legislative session. McCall planned to endorse the anti-littering campaign espoused by the Keep America Beautiful non-profit in 1970 and wait until 1971 to support the Bottle Bill. It has been written that this delay was intentional on McCall's part to make the bill his, and is partly a reaction to negative feelings for Hanneman's lack of support for the Beach Bill that McCall had championed earlier. After its defeat, Chambers continued his letter writing campaign.
After McCall refused to back the Bottle Bill in 1969, he sponsored the formation of non-profit SOLV—Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism. In 1971, it was reported that 75% of SOLV's budget was derived from organizations opposing the bottle bill. SOLV also received state funds.
In 1970, McCall initiated his own campaign for the Bottle Bill. Among opponents of the bill were grocery stores who feared financial strains with the processing of returns. John Piacentini, the owner of Plaid Pantry convenience stores, challenged people to return soda and beer bottles to his stores for a half cent. Piacentini said he hoped to be buried in litter; within two weeks, 150,000 cans were returned and McCall ordered National Guard troops to take the bottles and cans away. This helped allay grocery stores' fears.
The new bill, House Bill 1036, banned non-returnables and placed a five-cent deposit on bottles and cans containing beer, malt beverage, mineral and soda waters and carbonated soft drinks. More than 20 corporations sent lobbyists (some from the eastern United States) to fight the bill, and rumors of bribing state legislators circulated. Oregon legislators were put off by what they considered condescending Eastern tactics. One senator detailed her offer of a bribe while speaking on the Senate floor, which helped strengthen support for the Bottle Bill.
In 1974 the state reported that litter of beverage containers had been by reduced by 83 percent.
In 1996, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have extended the bottle bill. In 2005, Republican Party Representative Vicki Berger (daughter of Chambers) introduced another bill to extend the bottle bill, but it was defeated in the Senate.
On June 7, 2007, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 707 into law, which added water bottles to the refund law. The law went into effect January 1, 2009. Of the nine states that had bottle bill laws at that time, only Maine, California, and Hawaii included water bottles.
The 2007 legislature also created a task force, charged with making recommendations for further updating of the Bottle Bill to the 2009 legislature. Updates under consideration include adding products like wine and juice bottles, and increasing the refund amount from 5 cents.
The Container Recycling Institute estimates that 125 million disposable water bottles were sold in Oregon in 2005, more than the number of soft drink bottles, and the recycling rate for water bottles was 32 percent, compared with 82 percent for beer and soft drink bottles.
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- State of Oregon's website about the law
- Photo of Chambers Receiving an Environmental Award from McCall in 1974