Bottle Bill Passes Senate

Yesterday, the updated Bottle Bill passed through the State Senate on a vote of 23 to 7 - and now heads for the House.

This version is a cleaned-up and stripped-down update to the Bottle Bill and would simply add bottles of water and flavored water to the existing system. Other changes, including a boost in the deposit amount, would be considered by a task force to report before the 2009 session.

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland) is still leaving the door open for a more wide-ranging Bottle Bill reform.

The bill now moves to the House, where it may be expanded further. Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, chairwoman of the Energy and Environment Committee, said Monday that she's willing to consider adding not just water bottles but other beverage containers to the law, which was the first deposit law in the nation.

Interviewed minutes after the Senate vote, Dingfelder said she's also willing to talk about increasing the nickel deposit when her committee holds hearings early next month.

"I absolutely support updating the Bottle Bill," said Dingfelder, D-Portland. "The question is: Are the changes made in the Senate enough?"

House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, had wanted a Bottle Bill update that included more than water bottles, his spokesman said Monday. But ultimately, Dingfelder said, politics will decide how far legislators go in updating the Bottle Bill this session.

Two powerful groups -- the grocers and the distributors -- oppose many of the changes.

Read the rest.

Ready to take action? Send a letter to your legislators via Onward Oregon.


  • (Show?)

    Absolutely not! Is there a more basic necessity than water? What are people thinking with this one? Even a temporary nickel on top of the price of a 79c. bottle is an undue burden for some.

    We have plenty of curbside recycling - let's talk about how to increase use of that, instead of updating an outdated method of "encouraging" recycling.

  • ws (unverified)

    Why are people paying 79 cents for a bottle of water in the first place? Are there that many people in the Portland metro area, or Oregon in general with bad water? I drink water straight from the tap. It has a filter attached to it, but I don't use it that much. Anyone really concerned about the quality of their tap water could easily get such a filter for $10-$20 dollars. I know that's a lot of money for many people, but such a filter is a convenience that can be worth saving for.

    Some grocery stores have a water dispensary, such as the Winco I frequently shop at. I never use the dispensary, so I don't know for sure, but you might be able to bring your own bottles to fill, although empty ones for purchase are available nearby.

    I hope somebody runs the 'remove the word "carbonated" from the bottle bill' idea past somebody in the house of representatives as it's being discussed.

  • (Show?)

    which was the first deposit law in the nation

    Not to be snooty, but growing up in Long Island, New York, I used to go to construction sites and snag the soda bottles which had a 5 cent deposit then. That would've been the 1950's when a Superman comic cost a dime, or two returns. Beer bottles were 2 cents, but you didn't find those around construction sites. At least not very often.

    "First deposit law" doesn't ring very true to me. And a nickel in the 50's bought a lot more candy at the store than in 2007. But I see we'll sic a Task Force on that momentous issue of raising the fare.

    How about a refundable deposit on Task Forces?

  • (Show?)

    Um, Pete, there's much cheaper water available through the pipes that doesn't have a bottle at all.

    Plastic-encased water that's transported by vehicles is a luxury item, not a necessity.

  • (Show?)

    Frank, Oregon had the first state-mandated bottle deposit law. Many places had manufacturer's deposits in the good ol' days - when glass was expensive.

  • (Show?)

    That's right-- you can still get water out of the tap. That's how we drink it here at our place. We do have a Brita filter pitcher, which removes the slight after taste on our water. It was pretty cheap -- a lot cheaper than buying small bottles of water all the time.

    Occasionally you'll have those who for some reason cannot drink their water at home -- primarily those on well water. That was the case for quite some time at my parents' house because of some pollution problems in the area.

    We took containers into town (we were in the unincorporated area of a small town) and filled up there. We had dispensers around town like the one mentioned above at Winco. It was pretty cheap to do fill ups. We had several of the 5 gallon containers that we'd bought, and we'd fill them up and use them on a dispenser we'd bought. Before we had the dispenser, we'd use lots and lots of gallon jugs.

    If you can't drink your water at home for some reason, you're going to buy the water in bulk like we did -- not by the small plastic bottles. It's way too expensive to do that way.

  • Phil Jones (unverified)

    Will plastic water bottles be washed and reused?

    Does everyone know what truckers do with water bottles?

  • (Show?)

    Kari et al:

    Of course the tap water is pretty good here - it's what I drink. But that's beside the point.

    People buy 79c bottles of water – I don't pretend to know why. (I do myself, sometimes – and no, I'm not proud.)

    But whatever the reason for it, I'd say it's a lot closer to meeting a basic human need than buying a bottle of Coke or a bottle of Henry's.

    The bottle bill was fantastic in its time, but it's antiquated. More and better recycling options exist now. Plus, supermarkets have managed to cut corners and pass a number of laws that make collecting deposits an utterly degrading experience.

    Expanding this bill just makes no sense to me whatsoever. It's a forehead-banger for me.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)

    Pete: Because if people would actually use the free curbside recycling services and not dump over 130 million containers annually into the landfills we wouldn't need a bottle bill.

  • (Show?)

    Seems to me that the proof is in the pudding, as Scott points out.

    We've got two cases: Pop bottles that have a deposit, and water bottles that don't. In all other respects, the systems and circumtances are the same. In general, pop bottles are getting recycled, but water bottles aren't.

    Seems obvious to me that it's the deposit (and redemption system) that makes the difference.

  • (Show?)

    Because if people would actually use the free curbside recycling services...

    That's only true for those with access to curbside recycling. A lot of people do not have access to this.

    My parents, who live outside a small town in Texas, do not get recycling services with their garbage service.

    Many people who don't live in big cities don't have access to curbside recycling.

    There are also a large number of people who live in multi-family residences who don't truly have access to these services. My complex has nearly 300 units (many of which are 2-3 bedrooms). We have six of the blue recycling containers plus a medium sized cardboard recycling container. Starting soon, every single family household will get one of these blue containers. So that means a single family gets one (plus a Curby for glass), but our 300 units get six. You can imagine how quickly those six containers fill up. With no place to store the trash until the containers are empty (we don't have garages or other such suitable areas), all the recyclable items go in the dumpster.

    But I'm not saying the deposits are a bad idea. I actually think they are.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Phil Jones | Apr 24, 2007 1:14:57 PM

    Good grief. The plastic is recycled.

    What do you think they have been doing with the cans all these years, just rinsing them out and filling them back up with Coke and Pepsi?

  • (Show?)
    But I'm not saying the deposits are a bad idea. I actually think they are.

    The double negative there is confusing me.

    So you think the deposits are, or are not a bad idea?

  • (Show?)

    Apparently I accidentally deleted the end of the sentence. It should have said:

    "I actually think they are a good thing."

    I think expanding the bottle bill is a good thing. With the deposit, even those bottles that aren't turned in by the original consumer do indeed get turned in thanks to those who pick them up out of trash cans. I had a discussion online once about doing this for tires.

    But I also think we need to do more to increase the ability to voluntarily recycle as well.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Jenni Simonis | Apr 24, 2007 3:33:43 PM

    Thanks for clarifying. I asked because it would have struck me as odd that you would have thought was a bad idea, since you have in the past tended to advocate for sensible positions.

    Interesting suggestion about the tires recycling idea as well. Not to mention that old tires left outside in the rain are also a breading ground for mosquitoes which can carry deadly diseases.

  • (Show?)

    Yea, I was playing with my toddler at the same time (we were printing Wonder Pets pages), and I can only assume I accidentally highlighted part of the sentence when I clicked back over and hit the period at the end.

    I think the suggestion was something like a $5 deposit on a tire. Many of the people in the suggestion thought it would be a good idea, because you could get rid of tire dumping -- if people did it, someone would be willing to pick it up and return it for the refund. Some thought maybe only a partial refund (maybe $2.50-3.00) since you're going to end up with some returned that never paid a deposit.

    Of course, then you might end up with people stealing tires the way they do metal.

  • (Show?)

    But Jenni- we're talking about Oregon. I would definitely support a bottle bill if I lived in Texas, or any other state that does not have curbside recycling. Tire deposits, on the surface, sounds like a reasonable idea to me.

    But as for the issue at hand - water bottle deposits in Oregon. Scott, do you have a link to that study you can share?

    I still think it's a good idea to work on getting people to use curbside recycling. PR initiatives, fines, etc. Providing receptacles in public spaces alongside garbage cans is a good idea, too.

    But even the stuff that goes in the garbage gets sorted, to some degree; it's not like it all ends up in a landfill. (Though I don't know how much gets sorted, or how resource-efficient it is.)

    My point boils down to this: a bottle deposit is not simply an environmental issue, but also one of good social policy (and, to a smaller degree, public safety.) The cost-of-living aspect of it is worth considering.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, Texas does have curbside recycling. However, it isn't necessarily available everywhere in the state. Since my parents live outside of a city, they don't have the curbside recycling. If you live in town, you do.

    I was using it as an example of why you can't blame the recyclable items going into the landfills on people who ignore curbside recycling.

    There are still people in this state that don't have access to curbside recycling. And then there are those who do not have the same access to recycling as their single family household neighbors.

    It's about a lot more than just curbside recycling.

  • Jeremiah Baumann (unverified)

    There are plenty of people in Oregon who don't have access to curbside recycling. But that's beside the point.

    Curbside recycling doesn't work for single-serving beverage containers. People don't primarily buy single bottles of pop and water to bring home and serve at the dinner table. They buy them to drink on the go, and people don't carry empties around all day till they get back to their yellow bin.

    During the 1990s, access to curbside recycling tripled nationally, but recycling of beverage containers declined.

    Nothing is antiquated about the bottle bill except that it hasn't kept up with the beverage market, so water and juice aren't covered, and the deposit hasn't been raised. The Senate made a historic move by moving so resoundingly in favor of the first update in 36 years.

    By the way, there's a little-covered provision in there that's also good for consumers: it gets rid of the allowance for grocers to refuse to accept empties of brands they don't sell. So if they sell water, they have to take any water bottles (Safeway can't refuse to take Albertson's brand water). That ought to make it at least a bit easier to return the containers.

  • Alex Cuyler (unverified)

    Please don't make the mistake that curbside recycling is free. Cities in Oregon regulate curbside collection of garbage and require that haulers provide curbside recycling as well, but customers definately pay for recycling services. Costs are embedded into the monthly garbage rate one pays.

    While markets for recyclables have improved over the years due to increased demand for resources (you're not really recycling until you are buying recycled), revenue from materials doesn't cover the capital and labor expenses required to pick the stuff up.

    One of the benefits of the bottle deposit system is that these materials are typically higher value than curbside collected containers. This is due to the purity of the stream. Thus, adding water bottles and hopefully other containers into the deposit scheme will ensure that these materials are likely recycled back into containers, rather than "downcycled" into lower value (and less likely to be recycled again) materials like plastic lumber, pipe, toys, or in the case of glass, an aggregate product.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    Well, I'm glad to see this version of the bill. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction -- especially when coupled with the promise to revisit the issue in 2009.

    Assuming that the D's can maintain a governing majority through 2009, this should mean good things for the bottle bill through the end of the decade, no?

    Will be interesting to see what happens in the House...

  • (Show?)

    This water only version of updating the bottle bill is a joke, and is likely worse than doing nothing.

    Other states already have 10 cent deposits on bottles and include non carbonated beverages. So it can be done. It's not like we need a task force to study this for two years to see if it is feasible. We already know it is because other states are already doing it. Oregon's not being a pioneer here, we're playing catch up.

    The fact that Democrats are having a hard time passing a comprehensive update to the bottle bill only serves to demonstrate the extent to which even Democrats are beholden to corporate interests such as the beverage distributors and grocers. Democrats are really handing an issue to the Pacific Green Party that they can point to as a reason to vote for them rather than Democrats.

    I hope the house expands the bill to cover all containers two liters and less, regardless of their content, and increases the deposit to 10 cents. Anything less is a sellout.

    Let the grocers take a cut of the money from unclaimed deposits to offset their costs. Distributors shouldn't be getting this money.

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