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Since You Asked: Bottle returns not all in

What percentage of aluminum cans are returned in Oregon for their deposits?

If cans are not returned, who keeps the deposit?

I am surprised that the beverage industry in Oregon is so opposed to raising the deposit if they get to keep the non-collected deposit.

— Larry S., Jacksonville

The exact number of aluminum cans redeemed at stores across the state is unknown. However, officials with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimate that about 77 percent of containers under the state's bottle bill are redeemed for the 5-cent deposit. The law pertains to glass beer and soda bottles and aluminum cans. Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the law will also apply to plastic water bottles.

State officials estimate the percentage by monitoring what's processed through the state's landfills and curbside and depot recycling. About 17 percent of glass bottles and aluminum cans end up in landfills, while 5 percent land in curbside recycling bins and community recycling depots.

"We assume the rest is going to stores for redemption," said Peter Spendelow, DEQ solid waste policy analyst.

Stores pay distributors for the beverage and the deposit, and consumers pay the store for the beverage and the deposit. Redeeming the deposit works in reverse, with the consumer getting the deposit back from the store, which then gets the deposit back from the wholesaler. So if you don't claim your 5-cent deposit, you are making a gift of your hard-earned money to the distributor/wholesaler. Not to mention possibly putting recyclables into the landfill.

See correction below.

The opposition to increasing the deposit likely stems from worries that the extra cost could deter consumers from buying as many beers and sodas, and that out-of-state residents would try to redeem containers bought in another state.

Correction: This version has been edited to clarify the second to last paragraph regarding distributors benefiting from unredeemed bottle deposits.