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Can Idahoans redeem deposits from Oregon's bottle bill?

Oregon offers a 10 cent recycling deposit program, but redemption for bottles not bought in Oregon are a different story.

BOISE, Idaho — Since 1972, the State of Oregon has had a bottle deposit system aimed at encouraging less litter and more recycling.

In short, the so-called Oregon bottle bill sets up a system in where people pay a deposit on eligible containers that can be redeemed if bottles are recycled. Right now, the deposit and return are 10 cents.

Idahoans who live in Oregon border towns have an interesting angle into this conversation, can they hop over the border and get 10 cents per Idaho bottle? Bottles that were bought in Idaho, deposit free? Make 10 cents a bottle!

Well, this is a thing Oregon has to watch – just ask Vice President of Strategy and Outreach at Oregon Beverage Recycling Coop, Eric Chambers.

“There is a number of containers purchased at stores in Idaho, so they never have an Oregon deposit that's paid on them," Chambers said. "Those containers make their way back into the Oregon system and Oregonians are paying the refund value out on containers that never had a deposit paid."

So no, we didn’t find a billion-dollar side business for Idahoans. Oregon border towns protect the integrity of their program by taking some extra bottle verification steps.

“In many cases, that could be as easy as, an address that shows that a person lives in, you know, Payette or Caldwell or Weiser and, the closest grocery proximity to those communities is in Ontario," Chambers said. "It's reasonable to assume that those are Oregon containers. So, that could work for folks who live a little further out. We might ask for some receipts, a proof of purchase that just shows that there was shopping done in Oregon."

Chambers said they work to educate people who are trying to get returns on Idaho bottles, but there is a law on the very topic.

“For out-of-state containers, it's a pretty big violation," Chambers said. "I know that Idahoans don't want to violate Oregon law, so I think knowing that containers purchased in Idaho are not redeemable in Oregon is important information." 

People who try and redeem out-of-state bottles could be fined up to $250. That is a newer Oregon law – 2019. Michigan's laws are far more serious, violators there can face a $5,000 fine or five years in prison for returning containers.

Advocates for the Oregon bottle program argue a simple fix for the border situation is parallel policy between Idaho and Oregon.

“They make a huge difference to the national average. Recycling rate for beverage containers is around 35% in 2022. Oregon's preliminary redemption rate was 88.5%," Chambers said. "So, a massive difference in recycling performance that cuts down on litter and again, Oregon's systems are produce responsibly system that doesn't cost a dollar of taxpayer funds."

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