As Oregon’s system has grown and evolved, it’s become easier than ever for busy consumers to return their OR 10-cent beverage containers and receive their refunds. Options like the Green and Blue Bag programs allow consumers to place glass, plastic and metal containers all in the same bags, then simply drop them off at any bag drop location in Oregon to be counted and credited to their accounts within seven days (and often much faster).
Smart Count AI, Pat. No. 11,548,729
The convenience of the Green and Blue Bag programs means more people are using the system and there are many more bags to process. BottleDrop account holders now drop off more than 35,000 bags each day – and over 50,000 bags per day during peak volume. Accurately and quickly counting and crediting the containers in these bags for customers requires state of the art processes and cutting-edge technology.
To meet this demand, OBRC develop a new, patented technological solution in-house called the Smart Count AI. The first of its kind technology uses image recognition, scanners, cameras and artificial intelligence to rapidly identify and count bulk batches of OR 10-cent bottles and cans.
This technology can count and credit beverage containers significantly faster than the previous options on the market, helping Oregon’s system operate with optimal efficiency and ensuring consumers get their refunds deposited into their accounts as quickly as possible. The system is extremely accurate and continues to “learn” over time, as the software is updated and programed to include more container and material types.
In addition to being used in Oregon, OBRC’s patented Smart Count AI system is also currently deployed in San Francisco as part of the BottleBank pilot project, an effort to boost California’s declining redemption rate through more convenient consumer return options. OBRC is providing the operational solution for the BottleBank pilot project, which includes the patented technology – Smart Count AI – programed to facilitate the CRV refund structure, a dedicated mobile application, a customer account interface and mechanized material sortation equipment, showing that Oregon’s innovation can also help improve the performance of redemption systems anywhere in the world.
Stream Count AI
The Stream Count AI, also developed in-house by OBRC, uses the same patented image-counting technology that supports the Smart Count AI, but instead of counting the containers when they are stationary on a conveyer belt, the Stream Count AI counts the containers while they are in motion. OBRC will deploy this technology as a customer option in some of its busiest BottleDrop Redemption Centers, allowing customers to have their containers rapidly counted in bulk at a Stream Count AI and get cash on the spot instead of returning them one-at-a-time through self-serve reverse vending machines. This time-saving option will decrease lines at Redemption Centers and allow for greater volume with more efficiency.
Building on the Power of a Dime
Getting the containers quickly and accurately counted and credited to customers is only part of OBRC’s constant push for innovation. As the Green Bag program has grown to nearly 1 million account holders in Oregon, OBRC has made the program as easy, transparent and accessible as possible for consumers.
Through a streamlined mobile app, customers can access a digital account card to open drop doors, view their account balances, see details on their bag processing and credits, update their contact information, contact customer service and find bag drop locations through an interactive map function.
And when it comes to using their BottleDrop funds, OBRC provides many innovative options. Customers can still withdraw funds from their BottleDrop accounts for cash at retail locations and BottleDrop Redemption Centers, but they can also make their dimes go even further. Through OBRC’s BottleDrop Give program, account holders can donate to more than 5,000 participating nonprofits across Oregon, who also raise funds from direct container donations through the Blue Bag program.
Through an innovative partnership with the Oregon State Treasury, BottleDrop customers can link their BottleDrop accounts with Oregon College Savings Plan and Oregon ABLE accounts, enabling direct fund transfers to help save for education or disability-related expenses. This is the only partnership of its kind in the world, and it puts the power of OBRC’s ingenuity on full display.
And finally, through BottleDrop Plus, a partnership with the Northwest Grocery Association, customers can receive an extra 20% added to their refund value when they choose to use funds from their BottleDrop accounts to shop with store credit at participating retailers. Nearly 160,000 BottleDrop account holders “Pushed Plus” in 2021, getting even more from their refunds.
Unlocking Innovation from the Past
The evolution of Oregon’s system into a seamless statewide program has opened the door for additional innovations. Sometimes the most creative ideas are inspired by the past, which was the case for OBRC’s reintroduction of BottleDrop Refillable Bottles. Because Oregon has a very high container return rate, and because the containers are returned through a single system, OBRC was able to create the nation’s only statewide refillable bottle in circulation, used and loved by some of Oregon’s most iconic craft breweries, cideries and wineries.
Unlike the refillable bottles of the previous century, which had to be returned to the locations where they were purchased, these bottles are returnable at any BottleDrop location and can also be returned through Green and Blue Bags. Their unique shape ensures they are separated during processing, but the customer receives the refund value just the same. OBRC washes the containers and then returns them to beverage producers to be refilled and reused again and again.