House Approves Bottle Bill Reform

House Speaker Press Release 5-24-07:

House Approves Bottle Bill Reform

SALEM””The Oregon House of Representatives today approved the first major reform to the state’s landmark Bottle Bill since its inception in 1972. The updated Bottle Bill, SB 707, adds water and flavored-water bottles to the list of containers requiring a five-cent deposit upon purchase in Oregon.

“The original Bottle Bill cemented Oregon’s reputation for finding innovative solutions to common problems,” said House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D-Portland). “But over the last thirty-five years, that bill has not kept pace with the changing market. Today we have adapted a new Bottle Bill for a new generation.”

Oregon’s Bottle Bill was the first of its kind in the nation. When the legislature established the program in the early 1970’s, its aim was to reduce roadside litter. The primary source of that litter — non-returnable beer and soft-drink bottles — cost Oregon counties tens of thousands of dollars every year to clean up.

Following passage of the Bottle Bill, recycling rates of containers covered by that law reached upwards of 80 percent, vastly reducing the litter that polluted Oregon’s roadsides, riverbanks and beaches. But because of changes in the beverage industry and consumer habits, 126 million empty water bottles end up in Oregon landfills each year.

“The Bottle Bill needs an update to reflect today’s beverage market,” said Rep. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee. “In 1971 it was simply unimaginable to most people that we would buy bottled water at the store.”

The original Bottle Bill covered only malt beverage and carbonated beverage containers. And while Oregonians still recycle those containers in significant numbers, overall recycling rates have slipped in recent years. Adding water and flavored water to the bottle deposit law will keep millions of those containers out of landfills, reducing waste and conserving energy and resources. Under this bill, containers exceeding three liters are exempt from the bottle deposit.

“It really is impossible to imagine writing a Bottle Bill anytime in the last fifteen years that does not include water bottles,” Dingfelder said.

The Bottle Bill revision also sets up a task force to study the issue more extensively and make recommendations to the legislature on improving the bill’s efficiency and convenience. Eleven states, including Oregon, currently require a deposit on some beverage containers.

“Conservation is a hallmark of the Oregon experience. It is central to our value system and critical to preserving our pristine landscape.” Merkley said. “This bill recognizes those values and restores the original intent of that landmark legislation.”

“Reps. Vicki Berger and Jackie Dingfelder should be proud of all the hard work they put into this bill. It was a truly bipartisan effort and their dedication has paid off,” Merkley said.

The bill was approved on a bipartisan vote of 42-16. Because the House amended the bill, it will go back to the Senate for concurrence or further consideration.

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