Instead of returning bottles and cans at a grocery store, Roseburgians will soon have the option of dropping off their recyclable containers for a refund at an indoor staffed facility.
Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative hopes to soon open a new BottleDrop Center in the old location of Coastal Farm & Ranch at 740 N.E. Garden Valley Blvd., Roseburg. There are already 19 BottleDrop Centers across the state.
“Our goal is to open 45 BottleDrop Centers statewide to bring that convenience of the service to as many people as possible, and basically Roseburg has come up on the list because it’s a large enough community that we feel a BottleDrop Center will work really well there, and we happened to have found property that will work for us as well,” said Cherilyn Bertges, OBRC’s public relations and outreach manager.
Bertges said OBRC hopes to close on the purchase of the building in early April. It submitted an application to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the comment period for that ends March 4. The tentative goal is to open around July, depending on the timeline for permits and remodeling construction.
The building covers 24,378 square feet, and half of it will be used for BottleDrop operations while the rest will be leased.
Currently, any retailer that sells containers covered in the state bottle bill and charges a deposit are required to take back the containers.
“They’re very different from bottle return rooms at grocery stores. They’re staffed so they’re a lot more clean and convenient,” Bertges said of BottleDrop Centers.
People can choose three different ways to return containers at the center, one through reverse vending machines, which Bertges said are newer and faster than those at grocery stores. They can accept up to 350 plastic, aluminum or glass containers per person per day, compared to the 144 limit at grocery stores.
Those returning 50 containers or less can choose to have them hand counted at the customer service desk. The third way is to sign up for a BottleDrop account, through which people can fill green BottleDrop bags at home with all types of recyclable containers to drop off at any time. The bags will have stickers with the account number, the staff will count the containers and the refund will show up in the account to be redeemed at the center or some of the participating grocery stores.
There is no cost to use the first two options, but the green bags cost 15 cents each, plus a 25-cent processing fee.
“Partially due to the deposit increase, we’re expecting there to be some additional volume in containers, so we want to first of all make it easy for people to return containers and get their refund and also have the capacity to deal with that extra volume and make sure everything gets recycled,” Bertges said.
Sherm’s Thunderbird, Albertsons, Bi-Mart, Fred Meyer, two Rite Aid locations, Safeway and Walmart are all within 2 miles of the center and will no longer be accepting containers at those stores. Small convenience stores will still be required to do so.
Retailers with more than 5,000 square feet and within a 3.5-mile radius of a redemption center, like Costco on N.E. Stephens Street, can participate while still accepting up to 24 containers per person.
Terry Carlile, assistant warehouse manager at Costco in Roseburg, has mixed feelings about the new BottleDrop Center and the increase in refund rates.
“If it cleans up the environment and people are more conscious of taking them in themselves instead of just disregarding their bottles wherever they feel like, it’s going to be a great thing,” Carlile said. “If it doesn’t, I think you’re going to see more drug use and more people searching those bottles out to make a quick buck.”
He said the increase to a 10-cent deposit could be beneficial, but it could also come with an underbelly.
“The people who are getting it, it’s a quick way to get money, to be honest with you, for heroin and methamphetamine or whatever else is on the market,” Carlile said. “If you actually sit by one of those locations and watch the majority of the people, you see it’s created a sub-economy for a bad culture.”
He said he doesn’t know if the center will help take that culture away or exacerbate it.
Bertges said the existing BottleDrop locations have not seen any problems with loitering or vagrancy, as each area has security cameras, and transients using the center would be in the area anyway for the grocery store returns.
Carlile said he thinks the price to customers buying bottled water will substantially increase, from $2.99 to $6.99 for a 40-pack.
Another concern is that people from other states will bring containers into Oregon specifically to get the larger refund without having to pay the higher cost. He said he’s hoping there will be a bar code or another way to ensure that the bottles were bought in Oregon instead of states like Washington that don’t have bottle deposit laws.
On the other hand, Costco does not make any money from operating its own bottle deposit site, and the lower container limit will help Costco’s bottle return facility remain cleaner with less needed maintenance, less traffic and no lines.
He compared Costco’s aging bottle deposit machines to old cars that require extra maintenance.
“You have to maintain it and that costs money and time, and people are kind of angry when they’re broken,” Carlile said.
Joe Gilliam, president of the North West Grocery Association, said the BottleDrop program brings business into participating stores.
Once people build up a balance on their BottleDrop accounts, they will be able to use the BottleDrop Plus rewards program at kiosks in the Roseburg Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertsons. They will be able to choose between cash back and a store voucher for 20 percent more than cash back.
“So simply put if they go into a store and it has the plus option, and they had $10 in their account, they could take $10 and put it in their pocket, or they could get $12 in store voucher for purchases in that store,” Gilliam said.
People can also donate their refunds to nonprofits by transferring the money from their own BottleDrop account to the nonprofit or working directly with the nonprofit to drop the bottles off in blue bags specific to the organization.
For more information, visit bottledropcenters.com.