“Oregon’s commitment to environmentalism is what makes it so special. Its incredible access to nature, grassroots activism, and sense of community around protecting the environment is what makes it different from other states.”
Although new to Oregon, Anna Richie has always loved to spend time in the outdoors and has had an appreciation for the natural world, which is one of the reasons she has found herself in the Pacific Northwest. Originally from Minnesota where “we don’t have an ocean but we have a lot of lakes,” Anna says “Oregon’s commitment to environmentalism is what makes it so special. Its incredible access to nature, grassroots activism, and sense of community around protecting the environment is what makes it different from other states.”
When it comes to sustainable behavior change, it’s often difficult for people to take action. The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and its BottleDrop program, where Anna works as the BottleDrop Give Program Assistant, coordinating charity and non-profit work, gives Oregonians an easy and practical way to control where their plastic is going and how it is being recycled. “The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative is committed to Oregon’s Bottle Deposit and Return Program, also known as the Bottle Bill or the Beverage Container Act. We are concerned with reducing litter in our streets, parks, beaches, and ocean.” In 1971, Governor of Oregon Tom McCall decided to push the Beverage Container Act to establish a system of recycling that would incentivise proper disposal of beverage containers, such as cans and and glass soda bottles (now also including plastic bottles), by offering 10 cents for every bottle that is dropped off at a bottle return center. “This bill is sort of a guiding light for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, all the actions we take are to keep Oregon litter free.” Today, the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative manages the Bottle Bill operations and increases the convenience and ease of recycling plastic bottles across the state. Beginning in 2018, the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative expanded the types of containers they accept to include coffee, teas, and sports drinks. This will increase their 2018 collections by 60%, which means they will expect to recycle over 27 million pounds of plastic this year, up from 17 million pounds in 2017.
Oregon is pretty good at recycling, Anna says. “About 80% of Oregon’s beverage containers are recycled when the national rate is around 40%, which is really amazing.” Back when the Bottle Bill was passed, people understood the need for it. But now, when curbside is much more popular and accessible, some people don’t see the need for a bottle deposit program anymore. Anna says that most of the opposition that the Oregon Beverage Recycling Company faces comes from the people who do not see the necessity of an extra step between the consumer and the recycling companies. But with the recent change in the recycling market as China decreases the recycling they are accepting from the United States, the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative is stepping up. “We process all of our recycled products here in Oregon, which means the recycling stream is much cleaner, which means very low contamination and that is pretty hard to get. This also creates more jobs and a more direct system of recycling.”
Anna recently visited the Oregon Coast for the first time and was in awe at what an incredible space it is. She strongly believes it is a place worth protecting.