A statewide program which pays consumers for their beverage containers has resulted in a recycling rate that is more than double the national average.
The recycling rate of Oregon’s bottle exchange program reached an all-time high in 2018 when it reported that 90% of its deposits were recycled, resulting in over 2 billion beverage containers being saved from landfills.
This is a drastic improvement from 2016 when the state recycling rate was at just 64% – and it’s even more impressive considering how the national recycling average is only about 40%, according to the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative.
“That’s a really interesting thing given how much change is happening in recycling markets right now,” the collective’s Joel Schoening told NPR. “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.”
The program incentivizes state residents to recycle by offering them 10 cents for every glass, aluminum, and plastic container that is dropped off at their BottleDrop locations. Additionally, the cooperative has teamed up with Oregon breweries to create reusable bottles that are thicker and more durable than normal glass bottles. This way, the BottleDrop processing system can easily detect and separate the bottles so that they can be given back to the breweries for reuse.
The cooperative says that the program’s success is largely thanks to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission upping the bottle redemption rate from 5 cents to 10 cents when recycling rates failed to reach state goals in April 2017. As a result of that extra nickel, the recycling redemption rate skyrocketed from 59% to 82% for the remainder of the year.
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