Oregon’s Bottle Bill created a unique recycling pathway for beverage containers, keeping them separated from non-food-grade materials and contaminants. OBRC’s operational stewardship protects their quality throughout the redemption process. The result is Grade-A material, the highest possible, processed domestically, supporting a circular economy where waste becomes inputs.
Not only do beverage container return systems like Oregon’s produce much higher return rates for recyclable materials, but they protect the quality of these materials as well. By definition, beverage containers are food-grade packaging, and the best way to help give them new life as food packaging again is to recycle them through their own redemption system. This helps ensure that they maintain the highest possible grade of quality throughout the recycling process.
The same can’t be said for items that are returned through systems like curbside comingled recycling. In recent years, foreign markets have rejected bales of recyclables from American markets due to their poor quality and contamination, causing major disruptions in recycling systems across the country and causing concern about actual recycling outcomes.
That’s not the case when it comes to the two billion glass, metal and plastic beverage containers processed by OBRC each year. The Oregon Model’s unique return pathway for beverage containers, combined with OBRC’s decades of experience deploying technology and mechanized sortation equipment to accurately separate containers by material type, protects the quality of outgoing bales of recyclable materials, which are sent exclusively to domestic processing facilities.
This means that nearly 100% of the containers returned in Oregon are processed into Grade-A bales of carefully separated materials, often to become beverage containers again – an important factor for the beverage industry, which needs a reliable source of food-grade recyclables to achieve recycled content standards governing the production of new beverage containers.
And with the popularity and growth of the Green and Blue Bag programs in recent years, OBRC has also worked tirelessly to ensure the bags are recycled as well. Not only are the bags used in OBRC’s system made from post-consumer recycled content, but they are also recovered and collected during processing and then sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled into new bags again.
Oregon’s redemption system for beverage containers, over 50 years in the making, proves that outstanding recycling outcomes can be achieved. The Oregon Model gets dramatically more material returned, protects the quality of material at each step in the process, eliminates waste and contamination, and enables a truly circular domestic recycling economy of which Oregonians can be proud.