Choices that Created the Oregon Mystique: Governor Tom McCall's Foresight and Accomplishments

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Deposit bill recalls memories of bottle hunts in vacant lots

By Robert Shepard
United Press International

Are you old enough to recall the days when kids would scrounge through neighborhood lots for discarded pop bottles?

The lots always seems to be picked clean Saturday just hours before the local theater opened to scores of children who got their admission by returning the bottles for deposit money.

Oregon hopes to go forward with a step back to the days of the returnable bottle.

The beer and soft drink industries in Oregon have about 15 months to prepare for the day when used bottles and cans begin flowing back to their plants for recycling.

A bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Tom McCall will, after October, 1972, require Oregonians to pay a refundable deposit on all beer and carbonated soft drink container. The deposit will be two cents for the standard size, interchangeable bottles such as the beer "stubby" and five cents for all other bottles and cans.

In addition, the law will impose an outright ban on the sale of cans with removable, pull-tab openers.

The law will end the use of one-way, non-returnable beverage containers described by industry as "convenience packaging"; but condemned by others as an environmental blight.

No other state has enacted a comparable law and in preparing it the legislature had to seek advice from British Columbia where a similar but less stringent law was passed more than a year ago.

The "bottle bill," as it is referred to, was first proposed in the 1969 legislature but was killed after industry representatives asked for time to solve the litter problem through educational programs and voluntary recycling efforts. Little progress was made, however, and the bill was again introduced at the 1971 session.

The bill was the subject of the most intense lobbying efforts of the entire session and, despite its wide popular support, barely survived.

Representatives of national can manufacturers flew in from Washington, D.C. and warned the bill would "destroy" their industry and put hundreds of people out of work in Oregon.

The lobby for the bill consisted of citizens groups backed by the governor, state attorney general and nearly every other top state official.

The bill originally proposed putting a nickel deposit on all containers but the lawmakers were persuaded that the standard size bottles could be brought back in for a two-cent deposit.

Another critical issue was the effective date of the law which started out as Jan. 1, 1972. The industry tried to move the date into the 1973 session of the legislature in hopes of the providing another opportunity to kill the bill.

A compromise date of October, 1972, was finally agreed. This will allow the plan to be in operation for about three and a half months before the legislature convenes again to consider changes or improvements in the law.

Shepard, R. (July 5, 1971). "Deposit bill recalls memories of bottle hunts in vacant lots." Capital Journal. Salem, Oregon. Section 1:1.