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Oregon Bottle Deposit Set To Double Next Year

The bottle deposit rate in Oregon will double next year from 5 to 10 cents. Officials are trying to boost return rates, which have been slowly falling since Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill in 1971.

The law required a 5-cent deposit on certain drink containers, which is returned when people bring back containers. The results were immediate. Oregon achieved a 90 percent return rate, reducing litter and the number of containers in landfills significantly.

But a nickel could buy a lot more back then than it can now: 5 cents in 1971 had the purchasing power of 30 cents today. The incentive for people to return their empties has decreased with the march of inflation, and now the redemption rate is less than 70 percent.

These low returns have triggered a provision in state law requiring the deposit to increase. A 2011 revision to the bottle bill said if the statewide return rate was less than 80 percent for two consecutive years, the deposit rate would double to a dime.

The change will go into effect on April 1 and will be implemented by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“What we’re going to be doing in the next eight months is working with retailers, manufacturers and customers, making sure everyone is aware of the change,” said OLCC spokesperson Christie Scott.

Michigan is the only other state with a 10 cents bottle deposit. Return rates there average above 90 percent.

Another significant change in the deposit program is scheduled to go into effect in 2018. Juice, coffee, tea and sports drink containers will be required to carry a deposit.

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Jes Burns is a reporter for OPB's Science & Environment unit. Jes has a degree in English literature from Duke University and a master's degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications.