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You have rights when returning bottles and cans

As frustrating as it may be returning bottles and cans, there are options under Oregon's bottle bill.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Taking back bottles and cans is a chore most people don’t care for. The redemption machines outside of stores are often crowded, dirty and many don’t work.

“They always break down,” said Jim Mattson of Portland. “It’s very frustrating.”

A spot check by KGW at ten different stores in the Portland-metro area found 43% of redemption machines were not working properly.

“It’s like a constant battle--fighting against the machines,” said customer Aric Coon of Portland.

As frustrating as it may be returning bottles and cans, there are options under Oregon’s bottle bill.

“Consumers do have rights,” explained Becky Voelkel, bottle bill compliance specialist with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Are stores required to have redemption machines?

No, stores are not required to have reverse vending machines or keep them working. But, they are required to take back bottles and cans.

“It’s a legal requirement that stores accept customers’ containers and pay them 10 cents per container,” said Voelkel.

What if the machine doesn’t work?

If a container won’t go through a machine, you can request a hand count. Stores will hand count at least 50 bottles and cans per person per day.

What if they’re too busy?

There is no exception for being too busy. That’s no excuse. But remember, customers should be patient.

Are there certain hours stores are required to take back containers?

If the store is open, they must accept containers. It’s as simple as that.

Do smaller, convenience stores have to take back bottles and cans?

You bet. Convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Jackson’s and Plaid Pantry must accept containers. Most of these smaller stores and corner markets only have to take back 50 containers per person, per day compared to 144 for most large retailers.

What brands must stores accept?

Bigger retailers (5,000 or more square feet) must accept containers for all brands and sizes, even if they don’t sell that size or brand. For example, you can return Costco-brand Kirkland water bottles at Safeway. Smaller stores can refuse to accept containers if they don’t sell that brand or size.

What if my soda or beer can is damaged? Will they still take it?

Generally, yes. Cans that are crushed, dented or damaged should be accepted. Only if the brand cannot be identified or the Oregon refund value can’t be seen will containers be rejected.

Can I return containers purchased in Washington?

No. Only bottles and cans purchased in Oregon can be redeemed in Oregon.

Is there an easier way to return bottles and cans?

Possibly. A growing number of people are using BottleDrop redemption centers. There are currently 21 return centers open and five under development. These facilities allow people to return up to 350 bottles and cans per day.

“We’re really trying to tell people, ‘Listen this can be really convenient. We know it has been inconvenient in the past. We’re really trying to help people bring more containers in,'” said Jules Bailey of the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative.

Will they count your cans?

One of the features of these BottleDrop redemption centers is that you can drop off a bag full of cans and bottles and staff will count them for you. Customers can drop off two green bags per account, per day. The money from those containers is then credited to your account within a few days. There is a small fee.

Can you drop them anywhere else?

Yes. BottleDrop Express allows you to drop off green bags full of cans and bottles at various retailers. The same process then takes place. Staff will count the containers for you and credit your account. Again, there is a small fee.

“We now have those at grocery stores around the Portland area,” said Bailey. ”So if you go to the grocery store, drop your bag and do your shopping in one trip.”

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