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More Oregonians Exchanging Bottles, Cans For Money Than Ever

Jasmin Sessler via Unsplash

More Oregonians are exchanging their empty bottles and cans for 10-cent deposit returns than they have in years past. A number of factors are playing into the upswing, including an increased need for additional income.

When people buy canned or bottled beverages in Oregon, they’re usually charged a 10-cent deposit per container. They can get that money back by returning their empties at machines located at grocery stores or BottleDrop Centers. They could also fill green trash bags and drop them off at one of these centers for processing.

BottleDrop officials say there’s been a massive jump in container returns and signups for the green bag program over the course of the pandemic. There are about three times as many people on a weekly basis signing up for green bag accounts. In Southern Oregon, there’s been a 35 percent increase in bottle and can returns.

“There's just a lot of people out there right now that need access to their 10 cents,” says BottleDrop stewardship officer Jules Bailey. “The redemption is important to them. It's an important source of income. We've seen a lot of people who come to our centers and express how important it is for them to be able to get their refund and that they're relying on this money.”

Bailey says another factor is that more people are consuming beverages at home instead of at restaurants or at work, so there are more bottles in circulation.

Initially, many retailers with processing machines had to close and Bottle Drop Centers had to reduce capacity at the start of the pandemic. Once they opened back up, people rushed in to return the containers they saved. Since then volume increases have persisted and executives expect this trend to continue well into next year.

BottleDrop is a nonprofit operated by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which is owned by Oregon beverage distributors and grocery retailers.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.