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You soon may be changing the way you return deposit-paid beverage bottles and cans

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - The BottleDrop Center parking lot at the intersection of Linwood and King Road has dozens of cars coming with huge bags of cans and bottles to be redeemed, and leaving with refunds. For many years, the can and bottle return service at Woodstock Safeway has been a welcome source of income for some – and a pain in the neck for the store.

According to Safeway administrators and employees, the bottle return created mess, and the machines were often out-of-order. One Safeway employee recently remarked, "This is really hard work, because the machines are broken down so often. Today I hand-counted a couple thousand. I can't wait for the change."

As of April 1, 2017, when the redemption rate went from five to ten cents a container, "business" at the collection centers of the various Safeway stores became even more brisk, and problems increased.

Now – this summer, or early fall – the can and bottle redemption center at the Woodstock Safeway, beloved by some and hated by others, will be terminated. After the change people will need to travel to 4616 S.E. 82nd (near Holgate Boulevard), or Linwood at King Road, to get cash or credit for their returns – at an indoor, staffed BottleDrop Center.

The BottleDrop Centers have been created and are run by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), a member-owned cooperative corporation. Member owners are Oregon beverage distributors and grocery retailers. In Oregon, the OBRC takes care of the logistics for recycling nearly 100% of all containers redeemed in the state. OBRC is not government-owned, and uses no tax dollars.

Why the change? OBRC has been picking up cans and bottles from grocery stores for decades, but now is in the process of opening more independent BottleDrop Centers instead. To ease the transition, OBRC is making an effort to inform the public about the centers and how to use them.

Joel Schoening, Community Relations Manager for OBRC, says that the organization recognizes that recycling cans and bottles at the supermarket is convenient, but they now believe these centers will make it even easier – if you find it convenient to go to one.

"These are staffed, indoor, cleaner facilities. If you have containers the machine won't read, you can take them up to a staff member, who will help."

Schoening also explained the various options for redeeming at the centers:

· HAND COUNT: If necessary, staff at the BottleDrop Center can hand-count the containers for you, if there are fifty or fewer.

· SELF SERVE: The reverse vending machines make it possible to return up to 350 bottles and cans per person per day. Your refund is received at the on-site pay station.

· BOTTLEDROP ACCOUNT: Green BottleDrop bags are available at the redemption center for you to fill with bottles and cans to be dropped off at the BottleDrop Center, with the refund credited to your own personal account, which you can set up in the center.

There is also an option to donate your return to a nonprofit of your choice. There is a list of 779 "BottleDrop Give" nonprofits you can give to. For the list, go online to -- www.bottledropcenters.com/Give

And for answers to questions about how this whole system works, you can check -- www.bottledropcenters.com/About/FAQ

Gene Dieringer, local owner of the Woodstock Shopping Center, which comprises both the Bi-Mart block and the Safeway block, tells THE BEE he uses the BottleDrop Center at Linwood and King Road. He says he likes it because it is cleaner, faster, and more reliable than grocery store centers. He drops the green bag into a chute; the sticker on the bag is scanned automatically; and the refund is deposited into his BottleDrop account. There is usually no need to stand in line if you have an account, he says.

For those who cannot make it to these outlying BottleDrop Centers, there is an outside small "BottleDrop Express" in the northeast corner of the Hawthorne Boulevard Fred Meyer parking lot, and a new small redemption machine on the east, sidewalk, side of the Westmoreland QFC Market on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue. There is also a store redemption center outside Trader Joe's, on S.E. Cesar Chavez Blvd. (former 39th) just south of Holgate, that takes up to 144 containers per person per day.

The Woodstock Safeway's own redemption center will stay open two weeks after the new Bottle DropCenter opens on S.E. 82nd at Holgate Boulevard; the exact date for the change will be announced later in the summer. Look for signs to be posted in Safeway.

At the July 11th Woodstock Neighborhood Association (WNA) meeting, Joel Schoening, the OBRC Community Relations Manager, will be present to explain how the BottleDrop Centers work, and to answer questions.

Although WNA meetings are usually on the first Wednesday of the month, because of the Fourth of July being on the first Wednesday this year, the meeting will be the second Wednesday, July 11th. The meeting is at the Woodstock Community Center, 5905 S.E. 43rd Avenue, a block north of Woodstock Boulevard and across the street from BiMart.

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