2018 was marred by serious setbacks in recycling. Beginning in 2017, China, which buys more of the world’s recyclables than any other country, began restricting what recyclable materials they accepted due to too much non-recyclable trash being mixed in with the recyclables.
But in Oregon, a record 90% of glass bottles were recycled, in part due to the state’s bottle deposit incentive. In just two years, the recycling rate for glass bottles has increased by 64%, resulting in 2 billion glass bottles being recycled last year.
The record number of bottles recycled came as a shock to some in the state’s bottle deposit system.
“That’s a really interesting thing given how much change is happening in recycling markets right now,” said Joel Schoening, the community relations manager for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which runs Oregon’s bottle deposit system. Oregon’s glass and can recycling program is all domestic, meaning changes in international recycling markets have little to no impact.
“Because we deal only in glass, plastic and aluminum with very few exceptions, we have a very clean recycling product, which makes it easier to sell and recycle domestically,” said Schoening.
Oregon’s glass recycling rate outperforms nationwide average
According to an EPA-backed 2015 study of recycling in the United States, the recycling rate for glass was 26.4%, which is significantly lower than what Oregon achieved in 2018. Unlike some recyclable items, glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without a loss of quality or purity. This makes glass an especially important item to recycle.
The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative operates a number of BottleDrop service locations around the state. Oregonians can sign up for a service that allows them to simply drop their bottles off and have the money from the drop credited to their accounts. To date, more than 300,000 Oregonians have BottleDrop accounts, which is a 50% increase year over year.
How does a bottle deposit work?
For 40 years now, in the state of Oregon, if you purchase a beverage in a metal, glass, or plastic bottle, a small container deposit is imposed on the total price of the bottle. As of January 1, 2018, that deposit is $.10. So a six pack of beer, for example, has an extra $.60 bottle deposit fee that is redeemable if recycled through the state’s bottle drop program.
Oregon’s bottle bill was first introduced in 1971. It was America’s first ever bottle bill. It was brought to the Oregon Legislature in response to the growing issue of litter on the state’s beaches and in state parks. Since then, similar legislation has been proposed in British Columbia as well as 9 other states and provinces.