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Mid-Willamette residents at the Albany BottleDrop were happy that different types of beverage containers are being accepted for refund this year, including tea, coffee drinks, juice, sports beverages and more.

“I have two Frappuccino bottles in here,” said Laura Nesmith of Lebanon, as she pointed to a garbage bag filled with cans and other containers. “I think it’s getting people to return more and recycle.”

Michael Irwin of Albany supported the switch, as well. “My wife does drink a lot of sweet teas, so that will be nice,” he said. Customers will have to pay a bit extra at the store thanks to the deposit, but the program means more recycling and less roadside trash, he added.

Joel Schoening, community relations manager for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which runs the BottleDrop sites, said that it’s too early for return figures from this January.

“But we’ve had a lot of interest. We’ve been fielding a lot of calls and questions from account holders about what’s redeemable. We think a lot more containers are coming back now,” Schoening added.

BottleDrop sites invested in improvements to prepare for the increase in recycling, he said.

The additional containers were added to the bottle bill on Jan. 1, but that’s not the only change planned for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative in 2018.

The organization plans to open a new BottleDrop location at 1111 NW Ninth Street Suite B this summer, Schoening said. Representatives of the organization had previously indicated that the site would be complete in fall 2017.

“We had some challenges getting through the process,” Schoening said. “It took us a little bit longer than expected, but that was partly due to our desire to be really diligent.”

Schoening expected the Corvallis location to take traffic away from Albany. Some Benton County residents currently drive to Albany to redeem their cans and bottles because they believe the BottleDrop facility is cleaner or more efficient than recycling areas at local grocery stores.

The 7,000-square-foot Corvallis site will have six reverse vending machines, Schoening said.

The fees for the “green bag” recycling program also increased at BottleDrop sites at the start of the year.

Customers can get green plastic bags from their BottleDrop site, and the bags have bar codes for account identification. Residents can then drop the bags off at the BottleDrop at any time of the day or night. Employees process the bags and add the total to the customers’ accounts.

A roll of 10 green bags now costs $2 and there is a 35 cents per bag processing fee. The cost of the bag and its processing combined is now 55 cents, up from about 40 cents. But the average full green bag will still amount to about $7 in credit to an account.

In 2017 BottleDrop added three locations and 10 new express centers —usually modified shipping containers where rural residents can drop off cans and bottles.

Currently, there are 22 BottleDrop sites in Oregon like the one in Albany.

“Our plan is to build out a few of these a year until we get out to 45. We’re going to be doubling the amount of locations,” Schoening said.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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Business Reporter