A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Second thoughts on returning empties

Written October 3rd, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Inside the Albany Bottle Drop on the afternoon of Oct. 1.

Is anybody else having second thoughts about the way we now are supposed to return empty drink containers to get our deposit back?

The idea of centralized redemption centers seemed like a good one when the legislature authorized it a few years ago. Retailers would get rid of the mess of dealing with empties. Customers would no longer have to stand in puddles of spilled pop, feeding their empties into often balky machines.

So now, customers store up their empties until they head to the redemption center with one or more bulging bags. Then they wait for a machine to be free. Maybe one or two of the machines are out of order. The place smells of stale beer, pretty much like those former machines outside the various stores. A lone attendant is frantically trying to do three or four things at once, cleaning the restroom, emptying trash cans full of plastic bags, helping customers at the automated kiosk, and counting empties by hand for someone who doesn’t want to wait for a machine to be free.

Or, we can open an account, buy Bottle Drop bags and labels, and drop off our empties in bulk without having to count them or waiting for anybody.

Convenient? For retailers, certainly. For customers, not so much, especially when you consider the garage space taken up by bags of empties before you remember to take them to be dropped off.

The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative opened the Albany Bottle Drop at 2141 Santiam Highway in August 2015. This was one year after the city council rejected the cooperative’s plan to remodel a vacant thrift shop on Santiam Road, across from Carriage House Plaza.

The location is central all right, but it’s also on one of Albany’s busiest roads, so that getting in and out of the place is a challenge sometimes.

In retrospect,  the way we did this years ago seems a lot more convenient: Take a few empties along the next time you went grocery shopping, hand them to somebody in the back of the store, get reimbursed at the check-out stand, and that was that. No storage in the garage, no need to deal with automated kiosks or remember rarely used PIN numbers to get labels, no extra trips or messing with traffic, and no getting your shoes stuck in puddles of dried beer.

Ah, progress!

Leaving the Albany Bottle Drop is sometimes easier said than done.

22 responses to “Second thoughts on returning empties”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    Saving bags is really no problem. We get redemption bags from the SafeHaven location & fill them up. Just go in & drop the bag off. Usually it’s at least 3 – 4 so the drop off door wouldn’t work. It limits you to only two bags a day. BUT..it is for a good cause & we’ll go to the trouble.

    Now…what to do with newspapers? The American Legion no longer collects so we just dump them into the recycling bin at home. The A.L. at least helped a scout group. And I can tell you stories of years ago helping my Cub Scouts collect newsprint, bundling it, then trucking it up to Sweet Home to the plant. Hey…it helped pay for activities!

    • Jesse Adams says:

      As of the beginning of the month you can drop off up to 15 bags in a 90 day period. You’re also allowed two accounts per household, so a maximum of 30 bags per 90 days. Imagine dropping off 30 bags at once!

      I find the bag drop off wildly easier than the old way. Tho’ in truth I miss the pre-machine days, when a bag boy (ahh, checkout assistant?) would flip cans into the separate bins at the speed of light AND keep the math in their head.

      ( Also worth mentioning is the 10% kicker that participating grocery stores kick in. Free money… Free-ish anyway.)

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    If the Soda Heads and Bud Lite boobs would simply cut back their repellant drinking habits, substituting water on every third-bottle of cola, the container conundrum could clear by 30% immediately.

    Conversely, if the Sugar Heads must continue in their sucrose-bloated lifestyle, then the Station of the Cross that is the Bottle Redemption Center will be a necessary stop along the Way.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Sodas, coffee, etc are the only treats that poor people and the middle-lower class can afford to feel they belong to our hyper-consumerist society.

      I agree that sugary drinks are a very unhealthy habit, and I don’t drink them myself. I also support a sugar tax to curve health care costs related to drinking them. But at the same time I wouldn’t blame the consumers entirely. Taxes are way more effective to reduce a negative habit than blaming people.

    • Rachel La Brasseur says:

      And yet then they would drink bottled water!

  3. Albany YIMBY says:

    In Germany supermarkets have the machines in their lobbies and it is way more convenient to drop the bottles if you remember to bring the bag back every time you do your groceries.

  4. LaMont Matthews says:

    Donate them to a local charity like Helping Hands. Makes them happy and me too

  5. LaMont Matthews says:

    Donate them in the bag to a local charity likeHelping Hands. Makes them happy and me too.

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Our Takena Kiwanis of Albany club arrives at their 8:00am opening on Tuesdays right after our weekly morning meeting at Elmer’s. We usually have at least two folks (up to 4) who then “stuff cans & bottles.” Rarely is it full of people albeit that is also when we sometimes see the person cleaning and fixing the machines. Easy-peasy. One simply has to make a routine and plan to do it. Not rocket science for sure. And it IS much better than standing outside in the rain at stores!

  7. Fred says:

    The legislation that created this mess for consumers was ethicly from the get go. Let us count the ways.

    1) Alcohol and soft drink wholesalers win big time because a) the return rate goes down because this system is more time consuming for the public, and b) the deposit went from a nickel to a dime. Guess who gets to keep the deposit on the unreturned container…that is right, Alcohol and soft drink wholesalers. It amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars for every one of them every year. There was in fact a soft drink wholesaler in a leadership position in the legislature when this deal was cut.
    2) Big Grocery…..they save labor and storage costs by not having to deal with returns anymore. They wanted this deal so bad that they collectively put up money to start the redemption return stores you now see in place. Yes….they did hand out hundreds of thousands dollars during the campaign cycle to get such a cozy deal.
    3) The redemption return stores. They were handed a bankrolled monopoly on return centers. Great gig if you can get it I guess.

    The folks who lose on this deal are consumers, assuming they value their time and or money. Small business owners lose because the way the law was written they still get stuck taking cans and bottles at their stores.

  8. Fred says:

    should be “ethicly challenged”

  9. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    Wouldn’t you also be saving up your bottles if you donated them? I personally use the bottle drop and love it! I presticker my bag and when it’s full I take it and literally drop it. The location is about as good as any other location I believe. It’s really a very SIMPLE process.

  10. John says:

    Bottle Drop works. Let’s not talk about a little inconvenience when one of the few collaborative efforts in this city solves a problem.

  11. Jeff Senders says:

    Fortunately for me I live near Corvallis, where the bottle drop is hidden away off 9th street. Easy access too. I never go in the morning because that’s when all the people who really need the redemption money plug up the machines with several bags. They also have a 75 can/bottle machine for those with fewer items to return. Do not go on Sundays if there was a home football game the previous day. Afternoons best. They have a staff of 4, and it rarely smells. And if there is a lineup, it goes fairly quickly.

  12. Bill Kapaun says:

    If the stores had those type of machines and kept them functioning, there would have been no reason for this extra layer of cost. The money required to equip & staff this “centers” is simply passed on to us.
    Oregon Beverage Commission?
    Sure makes a PRIVATE COMPANY sound “official”.
    I imagine in the near future, they will want to become a state agency and dip into those PERS benefits.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      What “commission”? It calls itself a cooperative.

      • J. Jacobson says:

        This is really simple. The number of citizens not hoarding garbage bags of fetid cans outnumber those that do. As such, the Coke-sucking, Bud-blasting Beverageers have been relegated to the dark, slippery corner they belong in.

        No self-respecting society wants to witness the brutish behavior of roving sugar and alcohol-fueled Can Hoarders spilling-out of the F-350s, eviscerating accepted social norms, polluting the planet with wretched, stinking garbage bags oozing rotten sugar and god-knows what other chemicals.

        It seems to me a trip to the can redemption center at least preventss the greater numbers of us from having to witness the mindless Can-Lemmings regurgitating aluminum waste into the maw.

  13. Ean says:

    I remember it being way worse when you went to the grocery store. The machines constantly broke and the attendants fixed them slowly. The stores purposely did a crummy job to discourage bringing in cans. The bottle drop machines actually work and the attendants do a better job than the stores ever did.

  14. hj.anony1 says:

    This centralization is better. Albeit, only slightly.

    Since it is larger, there is occasionally quality people watching. A time this past week, as I am mindlessly feeding the machine my cans and bottles, someone in the que spots an older couple commandeering two machines. He is not liking this activity. The que line stacks up behind him. Words are exchanged. Hands put up to stop.

    He steps in and shoots more words at them. Telling them it is wrong. Good show.

    No violence. Thankfully.

  15. Rhea Graham says:

    I still want to know how the OLCC manages to not have their liquor bottles part of this process, what a scam!

  16. David Grimes says:

    With curbside recycling its time to repeal the bottle bill and dump the deposit on all drink containers.


HH Today: A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley
Albany Albany Carousel Albany City Council Albany council Albany downtown Albany Fire Department Albany housing Albany parks Albany Planning Commission Albany police Albany Post Office Albany Public Works Albany riverfront Albany Station Albany streets Albany traffic Albany urban renewal Andy Olson Benton County Benton County parks bicycling bike lanes Bowman Park Bryant Park Calapooia River CARA City of Albany climate change coronavirus COVID-19 Cox Creek path Crocker Lane cumberland church cycling Dave Clark Path DEQ downtown Albany Edgewater Village global warming gun control Highway 20 Interstate 5 Kitzhaber Linn County marijuana medical marijuana Millersburg North Albany Road Obama ODOT Oregon coast Oregon legislature Oregon passenger rail Pacific Power Portland & Western Republic Services Riverside Drive Santiam Canal Talking Water Gardens The Banks Tom Cordier Union Pacific urban renewal Water Avenue Willamette River

Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved. Hasso Hering.
Website Serviced by Santiam Communications
Hasso Hering