After a visit at the Albany BottleDrop last month to drop off a couple of green bags with empties, I got to thinking about the money angle involved in that particular chore.
As you know, the BottleDrop in Albany and similar operations elsewhere were started so that participating retailers don’t have to deal with the dirty work of accepting and storing empty and unwashed containers that customers return for the deposit.
For the convenience of people who don’t want to spend time feeding empties into the return machines, there is the green-bag program. Once you’ve set up an account, you get green plastic bags from the BottleDrop, attach a sticker that identifies the bag as coming from you, fill the bag with empties, and drop it off at the center, shoving it through an opening at the outside of the building.
The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative runs the BottleDrop centers. It has a website to explain the program. There, I found what it costs to take advantage of the green bags. I’ve used the bags for two or three years and should have looked that up sooner.
The cooperative charges $2 for a pack of 10 bags, or 20 cents a bag. Then it charges 40 cents as a fee for handling each bag that is dropped off.
If you buy soft drinks mostly in 2-liter bottles, and if you can get 20 of those bulky bottles into a bag, the containers in the bag bring a total refund of $2. Minus the purchase price of the bag and the handling fee, that should add $1.40 to your account.
But if you returned the bottles individually, you’d get the full refund. The convenience of the green-bag program costs you 30 percent of the deposits you have paid.
Small as the sums may be, the economics work out better if you buy beverages in only small cans. You can get many more of those into each bag, so your return per bag is greater. You also don’t have to go to the drop-off door as often.
None of that, however, beats the convenience of returning empties one by one or in small batches to the store. That method is still available in at least one small Ray’s Food Place in Jackson County.
There, they have a clean self-serve bottle return machine in a back room. When you go grocery shopping, you drop your empties in there and get the full refund when you check out.
Too bad much of Oregon — and Albany too — got too big for a simple deposit-and-refund system like that. (hh)