'Collecting Deposit Recycling To Get That Chedda' | KNKX

'Collecting Deposit Recycling To Get That Chedda'

Mar 17, 2018

Back in the 1970s in Oregon, a man named Richard Chambers was so dismayed by the litter he saw dotting the trails in the wilderness he dearly loved, that he decided to write legislation that would clean things up: Oregon’s Bottle Bill. 

The bill became a law before curbside recycling was the norm. It mandated that cans and bottles that hold juice and soda be sold with a deposit. You pay 10¢ extra when you buy them, and then if you want that money back, you have to return the empties. Today, with curbside pick up on trash day, a lot of people don’t bother.

These unclaimed dimes really add up -- to an estimated $30 million dollars in 2015 alone. That’s hundreds of millions of cans that were purchased and never returned for the refund. Much of this money goes back to the beverage distributors, which seems to defeat the law's original purpose.

But it's also become a source of income for a particular group of people: "Gleaners." These are people, many of them homeless, who fish bottles and cans from the curbside bins and redeem them for money. It's a whole economy subsisting off the law's redundancy -- recycling cans and bottles that were already being recycled.
But it turns out that the gleaners do provide a beneficial service to the planet after all, besides being a perfectly legal, perfectly rational way to get that chedda.