Last year, Oregon’s 5-cent bottle deposit went up to 10 cents, and the number of bottles being redeemed has skyrocketed.
From July through September of this year, the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative says 500 million cans and bottles were turned in around the state.
But many of those came from across state lines, mainly Washington.
Joel Schoening of the Cooperative says they don’t have an exact number on how many, but enough to be a problem.
“It’s fraud. It’s like stealing a dime from someone who actually paid the deposit,” says Schoening. “Right now, about ninety percent of Oregon containers are being refunded, so you pay that dime and get that dime back, and the rest of those dimes are used to pay for the system, the redemption center, the facilities, the trucks.”
But some of those dimes aren’t paying for the system; they’re going somewhere else.
At the Bottle Drop Express redemption location at Delta Park, big signs on the front door warn people that if you bought your containers in Washington, you can’t turn them in here.
“We catch about 50 people a day trying to cash in bottles and cans at this location” says Schoeling.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has the legal right to deny containers they suspect are out of state.
Security guards watch for vehicles with Washington plates, and tell redeemers they need a receipt to show where they bought the containers.
That’s what happened to Jane Howard, who lives in Vancouver.
“My daughter lives in Lake Oswego. She just throws her cans into the recycle bin and I said let me have them, ‘cause I can make a little extra money doing this,” says Howard.
She thinks it’s sad that people who probably need the money can’t get it.
“You know, the people who come, homeless people, indigent people, who collect cans, they’re cleaning up, they don’t have receipts” says Howard.
“We don’t want to punish the average person who just doesn’t know and has a small volume. We know a lot of people who live in Washington shop in Oregon; we just ask that you keep your receipts,” says Schoening.
Eddie Miller is a regular at the Delta Park Bottle Drop, who wonders why Washington doesn’t have a deposit.
“Yeah, they need to address it. They should see the reason we’re doing this is to save our environment and also get our money back,” says Miller.
Washington has a sales tax on beverage containers.
At the current rate, metal recyclers will pay about twenty-one cents a pound for aluminum cans.
That’s roughly thirty 12-ounce cans, which would get you three dollars at a Bottle Drop.
California also has a refund on bottles and cans, but has some stiff fines for trying to cash in out-of-state cans. Oregon does not.
Oregon state Sen. Betsy Johnson has said she’ll work on a bill that would punish people returning containers purchased outside of Oregon.