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)