HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Changes at the Bottle Drop: Fees and more

Written December 30th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

Bags of empties filled the drop door at the Albany Bottle Drop one day last April. The price of dropping the bags changes Monday.

At the Albany Bottle Drop and others around the state, the fee for dropping off a bag of empties will change on Monday. Two people who contacted me about it don’t think that’s right.

These two and apparently many other account holders (but not I) got an email from the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. The company announced changes in its “terms and conditions” that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

The “processing fee” for dropping off a bag of empties — instead of laboriously feeding each container into the reverse vending machines, the ones not on the blink, that is — goes from a flat 40 cents per bag to 8 percent of the refund value of the contents of each bag.

This is a price increase for those who stuff the bags full of 12-ounce cans. But if all your empties are 2-liter bottles, each of which takes up far more volume, a bagful has much less value and the fee will drop.

The fact that Bottle Drops charge a processing fee at all may be a surprise. The intent of the 1971 Bottle Bill was for people to get the deposit back. I don’t recall it saying you get the desposit back minus a processing fee.

Maybe that detail got overlooked a few years ago when the legislature authorized retailers to quit accepting returns by going with centralized redemption centers.

Something else in the cooperative’s email caught my attention.

“Important changes,” it said,”include a requirement that customers use their own account cards to open drop doors so that we can associate your bag with your account in the event there is a problem…”

So, no more holding the door open for the next hapless stiff who stands behind you juggling three or four bags?

But wait. Once all the bags are in a big pile on the other side of the door, how are they going to “associate” a bag with any particular opening of the door? (Unless they rig a camera that snaps simultaneous photos of the label, your card and you.)

And if there’s a “problem” and your account is “associated” with it, what happens to you then? Will your Bottle Drop privileges be suspended for a month? A year?

The problem with the drop door at the Albany Bottle Drop is that it never opens the first time you scan your card. And when it does open, often there’s a wall of bags behind the door and it’s hard to get yours in.

I tried to check on my Bottle Drop account online. But when I typed the number from the back of my card on the appropriate line, the system told me Bottle Drop had no such account number.

So much for efficiency. Wonder what happened to the refunds I supposedly accumulated since the last time I cashed them out.

Maybe it’s just me, but this task of returning empties for the deposit is becoming a complicated hassle, compared to the early days after the law first took effect.

Maybe Oregon ought to start looking for a better way. (hh)





68 responses to “Changes at the Bottle Drop: Fees and more”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Since they are a private company, maybe some lawyer type can file an injunction/class action lawsuit for bait & switch tactics?

    Make the merchants that wanted this program pay the fees!

  2. Carol Baker says:

    Just another way for the state to get more money from us as if they don’t already take it what happens with the money that we pay when we buy the items first isn’t that part of that return

  3. John says:

    8% is way to much to charge, we travel 50 miles to drop off bottles and can we may end up just tossing them in the garbage.

  4. Mark says:

    This sounds illegal to me . They force you to pay an additional.10 cents (deposit) and charge a fee to redeem your deposit . How can this even be ?

  5. Misty says:

    You forgot to add there $1.00 charge for the bag that has you account bar code on it! They make money on each of those bags. When you add that into the equation, they are making more or getting a much Higher % than they are claiming! What a rip off to the organizations /clubs you are trying to help and the people who take the time to recycle.

  6. Diane Branson says:

    Initially I didn’t think too much of this change, the cost of doing business is increasing. Than I did the math – I averaged the value of the last 15 bags I had returned and then calculated the new cost of 8% per bag, at the new rate I’d be charged $0.72 per bag vs the $.40 currently charged! Being able to just drop my bottles is a huge convenience but is it worth it? So now the decision is do I avoid this cost by hand feeding these returns myself? Is the time spent in line and then feeding the machine worth it?

    • Frog Pond says:

      Not to mention the fact that they are so anal retentive and only allow a certain dollar amount run through the machine per day

      • Anonymous says:

        In reply to them being anal retentive and only allowing a set number of cans per day, I have never seen anyone go out of the way to make sure each person doesn’t go over the daily limit. Just sayin
        Never

        • Jess says:

          They do it all the time at the delta park, 122nd and glisan and gresham location to include suspensions, not cashing your redemption tickets, or even permenant exclusion if caught exceeding there $35 dollar limit. I understand because of long lines limiting to 35 dollars per turn but a person shouldnt be stopped from going to the end of the line and going again for some people this is there only income and cant afford to get taxed on every bag

  7. CHEZZ says:

    Donate your cans to many school organizations who raise funds for their functions, clubs, teams.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      100% spot on!! Folks are seriously over thinking it and just like to whine & complain.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        BULL! Why in the hell should we pay a $.10/container “FRANCHISE FEE” because the state allows these PIRATES/merchants to screw us over? When I contribute to a charity, I do it on MY TERMS! Thanks to your constant extraction of funds during your tenure on the city council, you’ve done your best to keep people at or below the poverty level. Many simply CANNOT AFFORD to donate $.10/container. I know that goes over your “let them eat cake” attitude.

  8. TONY F IDLE says:

    you forgot to mention that you have to use their green bags , they charge for those too . I only go to Costco and hand feed mine , you can return $14 a day . you can only return $2.40 a day at Fred Meyer and Safeway at the one I shop at ,quit taking hand feed returns .

  9. Gerald says:

    Thank you Hasso for the report. You are correct, it usually takes two tries before the door will open. I usually have around eighty items per bag which returns me about eight dollars less forty cents. The new charge will be sixty four cents which is a sixty percent increase. Hopefully there will be a huge pushback on this.

  10. Carrie says:

    This DEMONRATS (BNOT A TYPO) STATE HAS BECOME SO BLUE AND GREEDY.. IT’S ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING…NO LONGER THE OREGON I EAS BORN AND RAISED IN .. SO VERY SAD …
    SMH

  11. Julie says:

    This was all a great idea it just does not work. Door won’t open store employees are too busy to help out when you call the phone number you get put on hold forever when you enter your account in multiples because it will not accept the numbers. It is a nightmare that no one should be charged for.

    • Frog Pond says:

      You mean the management has probably instructed the employees not to respond because there is no money to be made in the bottle department

  12. Lunda says:

    I totally agree. I have not received credit many many times.. a rip off

  13. Al Nyman says:

    What I have always wondered is who gets the money for all the cans and bottles that don’t get returned.

    • Anon says:

      The distributors of the bottles and cans keep the refund. It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for most of those distributors. It should come as no surprise, but there was such a distributor in a leadership position in the Oregon legislature. Distributors won, Big Box grocery won. Bottle and can return drop centers won. Small convenience stores and the public lost. It’s playing out just as some of us in the industry knew it would the day it passed.

  14. Teresa Kilpatrick says:

    What’s the since of having one if we have to pay a fee for dropping them off then

  15. Deana Costello says:

    This is not right…We are being charged $.10 per can/bottle, we should be getting it all back and shouldnt be charged at all…The government came up with this to once again get more money out of its citizens…Such a crooked and shameful act…Another very low and corrupt democtatic attempt at controlling the people…

  16. Tanya Hart says:

    I agree! The never consistent hours and insane closing policy even if you have been standing in line and hour. There should be no fees and they were supposed to be open until 9pm in the original plan. They were also supposed to be city or location jobs but they sold out to a private for profit company so they will continue to do as they please and we have no choice but to go there. This is corruption of what voters passed and I think they should bring bottle return machines back to the stores or quit collecting the deposit all together.

  17. Linda Emerald says:

    Sounds lime im better of returning our own cans its a little to complicated for yor establishment to handle thanks for making this so complicated weve had to pay for seperate bags and labels and now xtra for the counting id rather give them to a homless person who could really use the extra cash happy new year

  18. Colleen Floro says:

    I have a Bottle Drop account and always knew there was a processing fee per bag; how else will the employees get paid?
    Also, the door opening per account policy is nothing new.
    Finally, the alternative to no Bottle Drop is back to using inefficient machines at local grocery stores.

    • Debora says:

      When I worked at Safeway on the Coast, we had an employee that worked just on bottle machines all day because they broke down or got full so often. It was a nightmare. But I get frustrated with the bottledrop service too.

    • L Hanslovan says:

      Well said!

  19. Harold Moore says:

    The bottling companies should have some cost in this also. There are thousands of bottles and cans that never get redeemed and the bottlers keep all that money. Let them pay for redemption center fees and get us 100% deposit back. Not sure what percent never gets redeemed but I sure it adds up.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      OBRC is a not-for-profit cooperative created by the for-profit bottlers/distributors. It’s a government approved monopoly and it definitely has a bottom line.

      About 2 billion beverage containers are sold each year, so a 10-cent fee calculates to $200 million in deposits. About $31 million goes unredeemed.

      OBRC gets that $31 million to operate the redemption centers.

    • Gordon Day says:

      I heard report ( 3 yrs ago) that Oregon took in something around 50 million in deposit a year and only 35 million paid back on the returns. My math proves some one is getting a 15 million dollar bonus and it is not the Public

  20. GregB says:

    I did the math on this new 8% fee vs the 40 cents fee. Looking back on my account online, my average amount of return on my bags has been around $8. 8% of $8 is 64 cents. They are making 24 cents more on my bags. That is not going to break me, but the email I got from them said this is so much more fair. Really? I emailed them back, but that is kinda like spitting into the wind.

  21. Danita Crook says:

    My question would be. Where will this new fee and outrageous price increase go? I’m sure it won’t go into their employees’ pockets.

  22. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “The fact that Bottle Drops charge a processing fee at all may be a surprise.”

    You don’t like links, so I won’t submit any.

    But there are numerous online sources that clearly say OBRC charges a processing fee. Ignorantia juris non excusat.

    And everyone needs to understand how OBRC works. Just follow the money. Too many redemptions hurts OBRC’s cash flow.

    OBRC keeps every deposit that doesn’t get refunded. So there is a perverse incentive to provide a customer experience that is tolerable, but not exceptional.

    If every bottle was redeemed, OBRC would go out of business or demand a government handout to keep operating.

    A government granted monopoly at its finest.

  23. Lori Rich says:

    There is a trick with the door opening. I have found that once you scan your card, you have to get an ear close to it and listen for a clicking sound that happens after a second or two, then pull the door and it will open on that first try. Not ideal, but saves some frustration

    • MarK says:

      Doesn’t work for those of us who are deaf. They, not too recently, added a green message that lets you know when the door is unlocked.

  24. Sandra Petersen says:

    So, it’s, is it worth the trouble to recycle? In NE Portland the New building is crazy to get in and out of regarding traffic on 122nd. When you want to spend your $ on groceries you have to go through the line, suspend your order and go to the kiosk and take out what you need. They make it hard to use the extra 2%.

  25. Michael says:

    They really should just go back to the recycling machines at grocery stores. Or they should just get rid of the bottle fee altogether and just encourage people to recycle the containers in their weekly recycling pickup.

    Most people I know don’t even bother with the BottleDrop returns anymore because of how convoluted the entire process has become.

  26. Pissed off mama says:

    Guess im putting my bottles in the trash.

    • Matthew Calhoun says:

      Or you could donate them to one of the many civic groups or charities who will still redeem them instead of being a sourpuss

    • Frog Pond says:

      Just take your bottles and
      cans throw them in the street while you’re driving down the road

  27. Catherine Harding says:

    I have been putting my empties in the recycling bin for years. The return system has been frustrating since it’s inception. We just consider the deposit part of the cost of soda or beer.

    • Craig says:

      OBRC thanks you for your donation. If you save them for local clubs who will pick them up at least you can choose your charities.

  28. Ed Liefke says:

    In the email they claim the higher processing fee will deter customers from overfilling bags causing heavy lifting and risk for employees. Just how many cans can a person fit in a green bag to cause heavy lifting?

    • Dolly says:

      The green bag limit is 90 cans/bottles! I don’t understand my fear surprise to any of the people having this conversation. There are fees for everything we do anymore. It’s just part of life. If everybody is so frustrated with it, give them to the homeless. They don’t mind standing in lines or paying fees because they so desperately need the money.

      • MarK says:

        And you’ll be able to meet many of them in and around the Albany BottleDrop location. That’s a BIG reason I use the outside drop door.

  29. Norma says:

    We are a non profit that uses this service. It is our main source of income for providing goods and services for Wildfire Survivors of 2020.

    I have noticed by looking at per bag income that instead if getting roughly $8 a bag, it’s mostly under $2 per bag. Come to find out if their is a code unreadable on any bottle, your done. They keep the rest! Check your account

  30. Hartman says:

    Anyone who has enough soda pop, teeth-rotting, health-destroying bottles in their possession so that said bottles must be bagged-up and driven by gas guzzling cars to what many here describe as a horrid locale must be some sort of addict.

    Seriously people…stop purchasing and consuming these destructive products and all your First World Whining will disappear. The mere fact that so many have responded to what is essentially a very minor problem clearly indicates that the people of Albany have nearly nothing to whinge about. Stop the Coke. Stop the Pepsi. Stop the other empty, life-threatening products and not only will you be free of the bottle drop woes, but you’ll be better off physically, financially and spiritually.

    • Lanny says:

      How about those who drink bottled water?

      • Diana Olson says:

        Good point, bottled water is a yuppy thing. I use a refillable, reusable beverage container. I don’t figure I have to look affluent like other folks.

  31. Jacquelynn says:

    Quit complaining! Don’t participate if you don’t like.

    • Matthew Calhoun says:

      But complaining about $0.80 vs. $0.40 and other stupid things on Facebook and this blog is the Albany way! It’s practically the town motto.

    • Scott says:

      You can’t choose not to participate. They charge you a 10 cent fee per container whether you like it or not.

  32. Lynn says:

    The only thing that has changed from the time that there was messy bottle returns at each grocery store is there is one place that in my opinion is much cleaner with machines that are not always full or broken down, and someone always trying to track down and employee to fix it, there was nowhere to just drop off a green and have someone else responsible to count out your returns and add it to a account. I guess my question is the people that don’t like the new changes what did you do with your returns before? Did you take them to the messy outside machines of the stores and feed each bottle or can yourself? It takes paid employees to count out your returns and add them to your account so obviously they are going to charge you something to do the job you presumably did yourself before the bottle drop, if that is not worth 8 of your bottles per green bag then maybe it is time for you to go back to going inside the building and feeding your returns into the machine yourself. I personally think it is a matter of wanting to find the most fastest, easiest way and if that is what you are looking for in this matter it is going to cost you a small fee for someone to do that job for you. My complaint about having a bottle drop is I think we need more than one considering it is open only certain hours and there is usually a line, although I can remember driving from one store to the other to find the shortest line at the outside broken down, messy machines so all said and done I think the bottle drop is a huge improvement. If you don’t want to take them back yourself and you don’t like the drop off system you can always donate to schools, the humane society and I am sure other non profit organizations.

  33. Vaughna says:

    I agree with Jacquelyn. If this program isn’t working for you, you have an option to not participate. For Me: Is it worth my time to pay .72 cents per bag to have someone else do the work? Is there value in not having to hassle with the machines that jam & break down? Is it worth it not to have my shoes stick to the cement outside the grocery store & inhale smells I’d rather not? Is it worth it not to stand in a long line? For me, it’s entirely worth it. Bottle Drop is a convenient program. I am honestly surprised at the negative comments. Do you not remember when cans & bottles littered our beautiful highways? Maybe give this more thought before complaining & ask yourself, how valuable has it been to keep more recyclables off our streets/ highways, etc.?

  34. Michael says:

    I look at the fee for the bags and fee for the drop off the amount you pay to have someone else process your cans. With everything going up in price, this is just another thing that’s going up too. Do I like the increase? No. But I don’t like having to process my own cans even more. It is what it is.

  35. Laura says:

    I have been hand counting every can in every bag so that I know exactly how many there are. 90% of the time they don’t add in the correct amount to my account and I have to call them to get it corrected. For every dollar that they gyp you, they’re actually cheating you out of $1.20 (+20%). We aren’t allowed to just pay out of pocket for getting a box of green bags. They have to take it ( $2.00 per box) out of the money we have in our account so it really costs us $2.40 per box.

  36. Steven Reynolds says:

    Lol, at some point it’s going to cost more in fees, time, bag purchases, fuel and non credit than what you get in return… Just last time I dropped off, I only received credit for one bag. You just have to know you’re not going to get credit for everything you deposit, there’s just not that many safeguards. I try to push the bags in to the side so they go past the wall O bags and manage to get to the floor, I figure it’s the best shot at getting them counted.

    I know a full bag is about $8 to $12, when the full bags come in at $4 and $5 you know there’s an issue but I’m not going to sit there for hours putting cans in machines. It gets them off the street and out of our waterways that the big plus for me, I just look at as a bonus when the count is correct.

  37. JRP Albany says:

    Remember the bottle bill, first implemented by Oregon, was to keep the bottles from the highways, trash, waterways. After the bottle bill, trash pickup started including recycling. Most people recycle now. Perhaps we the people of Oregon, should push back by initiative petition. Let the voters decide. End the 10 cents deposit. If it were about making sure the bottles are not just tossed out, then all beverage containers would have a deposit required.
    The bottle drop is a convenience. There is a cost of doing business. We all recognize that.
    However, I am wondering, how many other people have been hit in the head by the heavy door when you bend over to pick up another bag to toss in, not realizing the door is swinging shut?
    They do need to put a heavy magnet to hold the door open to prevent injuries.

  38. Lundy says:

    Hasso, thanks for the report, and I’ll make it an even 60 comments: I’m an avid reducer/reuser/recycler … and I have reached the point where I would like to see the Bottle Bill repealed, or at least radically simplified. It’s too complicated and at least gives the appearance of corruption in that the OBRC has an incentive not to make it easy to redeem empties.

    • Sue Kalt says:

      I agree — time to re-evaluate the Bottle bill. Back in 1973 we did not have recycling to the extent we have now. This is now a dinosaur that has become a huge bureaucracy.
      1. Highly inconvenient to get our money back
      2. Fees are too high for the green bag program (all I want is my money back. I am not a professional bottle collector.
      3. Half the machines do not work when I go there
      4. They got rid of the Express Lanes for those of us with 50 bottles or less. Really? Why? I should not have to stand in long lines for hours to get back a few dollars.
      5. Most comment that its only 10 cents so what’s the big deal. Well, 50 bottles is $5. Are you willing to take your five dollar bill and throw it into the garbage can?
      6. Waste of gas. I have to drive at least 10 miles to the NEAREST bottle drop place
      7. Since I started using the green bags this past summer, they have already lost 5 of my green bags. How nice. Each bag was full of plastic bottles and some cans.
      8. I now have to do meticulous record keeping to get my money back. I am not buying a service or making money on this. All I want is my money back. If you don’t want to refund my money, then don’t charge a deposit. I would much rather they don’t charge a deposit on my bottled water and juices. Even V8 juice cans are part of that 10 cent deposit fee.
      9. It has become a unwieldy bureaucracy
      10. Their current usurious 8% fee serves to de-incentivize bottle returns. Probably what the bottlers want so they can keep that extra money.
      11. Too many people going through my garbage each week looking for bottles and cans and leave a huge mess by my blue bin.

  39. Cheryl P says:

    Good Gawd people, pull your head out of your butts! Do you pay someone to change your oil? Do you pay someone to wash your car? So why wouldn’t you pay someone to redeem your bottles/can while you’re out making merry.

  40. Anna says:

    Stores that still hand count cans for depodit reimbursement do not charge a redemption fee. In my opinion as an employee at a store that hand counts bottle returns, y’all are getting ripped off by using drop off locations, and why aren’t employees in stores that hand count receiving some sort of payment in return for the time we spend on counting and sorting through the cans and bottles they deal with daily. Not to mention that disgusting unsanitary vile cans and bottles some people seem to think are ok to return as is. I’ve been doing this for 5 years I’ve seen dirty diapers, used feminine products, rotten food, vomit, human and/or animal feces, drug paraphernalia, used needles whether it be drug or insulin I’ve seen both, and the list goes on. It’s absolutely disgusting and puts our health and safety at risk. At my store, in particular, we don’t have a storage area or unit to store the bottle returns we receive so they are stored in our back room which is also where incoming merchandise is delivered, and where we store our over stock product. Sometimes returns we come across have little critters and creepy crawlers so if they get out and we don’t notice them then we run the risk of potentially having an infestation of something brought in with returns. Don’t Get me started with the warmer months and the amount of regular flies and fruit flies old rotting beer cans attract inside our back room. Bees, hornets, and wasps are so fun to deal with too! Let’s not forget the amount of space the returns take up in my back room leaving me no choice but to bring rolltainers and uboats out on to the sales floor making it hard to navigate your way through and also poses many safety risks to customers within my store. Having to constantly count cans takes me and my employees away from our required job duties we are expected to perform causing us to fall behind. SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE! It’s nothing but a burden to us who have to deal with on a daily basis.

  41. Joescalon says:

    Article is very terrible, if maybe writers do some research or even reach out for comment they wouldn’t sound brain dead. Nothing has changed for free users of bottledrop program, update is only for dropping off bags and having someone else do your dirty work (often very nasty). Also using remote bag drop locations have zero fee for processing and for those saying bags cost 1.00$ it’s actually 20 cents and pays for making and recycling the bag….

  42. Sue Kalt says:

    It is time for the bottle bill to go away. When it was enacted, we did not have curbside recycling. It is now a bureaucracy that is riddled with fees. When I pay a deposit at the store for bottled water or sparking water, I have been given a promise to get it back if I return said bottles. It should not cost me any extra to get my money back. For those of you who can afford to donate and throw away your money go for it. But I for one want my money back. If you have $5 in your pocket, why don’t you just take that $5 and throw it into the street. Fifty bottles is $5. That’s not just 10 cents anymore, it is real money. I for one, want my money back otherwise don’t charge that 10 cents per bottle.

    The bottle bill needs to be re-evaluated as to its efficacy and efficiency. It must cost a lot of money to operate these centers, to employ all those people — a structural costly endeavor. The easy solution — get rid of the bottle bill. It is time. We can recycle at the curb and not be charged all those extra fees.

    They have a lot of nerve to charge 8% on top of the cost of the bag itself. Each bag costs 20 cents plus the processing of each bag is now 8% That 8% is now a tax on money you already paid. So now instead of a flat rate of 60 cents per bag (20 cents plus the 40 cent processing), it is now a variable amount which exceeds 60 cents per bag. To break even (to recoup some of your money) you need to write off 10 bottles per bag as being a gift to their bureaucratic structure — this is bureaucracy at its finest — to make sure you no longer get your money back — the money you paid into the system hoping to get it all back if you were conscientious enough to bring back those bottles.

    I for one, want my money returned to me. It is a deposit. I am not making money, I am just trying to get it back. I should not have to pay 20 cents plus 8%. That’s a usurious fee.
    Also, having to drive (waste gas) to get to these centers with broken machines is getting old. The parking lot has broken glass. The floors are sticky and it reeks in those places. Most of the machines do not work.

    They have lost at least 5 bags already this year..

    Time to get rid of the dinosaur called the bottle bill. It has outlived its usefulness.

  43. Julie says:

    The bottle bill has been in place in Oregon since the 1970’s. There are only 10 states with a bottle bill and those states recycle about 3 times the amount of bottles and cans as states without a bottle bill. Seems pretty useful to me.

  44. Julie v says:

    I was initially a fan fan of bottle drop but after years of experience I am frustrated. The parking lot is frequently full which means parking far away and making multiple trips back and forth between the car and green bag bin. (How about a green bin drop off parking zone?)
    It’s impossible to hold the awkward spring loaded bin door open while hefting a bag of containers into the always overstuffed bin.
    ( 2 handed cramming required!)
    I always pre count my containers before dropping off a load of bags, yet the count/funds I receive in return is frequently short by many containers. (Yes, even factoring in the fee.) Entire bags of mine have gone missing on several occasions. They should be competent enough that I shouldn’t have to monitor my account for accuracy.
    The last straw was recently when they closed my account without warning as they said they found a loose diabetic needle in the sorting trough after one of my bags was dumped for processing. Finding a biohazard results in automatic termination of the account . There’s ZERO chance it was from my house, but they said there’s no appeals process as their camera has “proof”. (Their system of “proof” is probably as accurate as their system to count containers and track bags.) So now I am black listed from having an account.

 

 
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