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Updated bottle bill on path to Senate vote

SALEM &

The Oregon Legislature's proposed expansion of the bottle bill appears to be falling a few cans short.

Advocates wanted an update of the state's landmark container recycling law to include wine and alcohol bottles, as well as water, juice and sports drinks.

But the bill that's expected to head to the Senate floor next week would only add plastic water bottles and a few more aluminum cans to the law. It also would postpone any deposit increase for at least three years. Supporters wanted to raise the redeemable deposit to a dime.

When it became law in 1971, Oregon's bottle bill was the nation's first recycling initiative that required distributors to issue a 5-cent deposit for each bottle and can returned. The year after it was implemented, the state's recycling rate for glass and aluminum drink containers shot up from about 25 percent to more than 90 percent.

But the state's beverage container recycling rate has slipped to less than 80 percent &

in part because a nickel doesn't go as far as it used to.

Rep. Vicky Berger, R-Salem, whose father, Richard Chambers, is credited with coming up with the idea that became Oregon's bottle bill, has been trying to update the law to include more beverages and increase the deposit.

But grocers oppose the expansion, saying they can't handle any more returns.

More than 180 million bottles of water are sold in Oregon each year, and only one of every three is recycled, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The agency says adding water bottles to the redeemable containers returned at grocery stores would increase the stores' load by about 10 percent.

"As long as it comes to the stores, we're going to oppose expansion. We're maxed out on sanitation," said Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association.

If the list of redeemable containers were to include fruit juice, tea and other beverages, another 192 million containers would be added to the mix.

"Adding those containers would mean you've got to come up with a new method of collection," says Sen. Brad Avakian, D-Bethany. "I would envision a redemption center in the parking lot of grocery stores, so when people come to shop they could return their bottles and cans. But when you talk about redemption centers, you need to talk about how to pay for them and that's where it gets tricky."

Avakian, who leads the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, says the votes are there for a water bottle-only bill. The proposal, Senate Bill 707, is expected to get a floor vote as early as next week.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com

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