Local teens sway governor on recycling

June 15, 2011

For those of you who religiously recycle and prioritize a conscious use of the earth's resources, there is good news from the governor's office - brought about, in no small part, by two local teens' diligence.

On June 9, Ali Danko and Alix Melton, both 18 and both graduates of HRV on June 10, experienced a very direct effect of their efforts to promote recycling. They were special guests at the Capitol, invited to watch Gov. John Kitzhaber sign a bill updating and strengthening the Oregon bottle deposit system.

"By making more of these containers eligible for redemption, we're going to have a significant impact not just on our roadways and in our landfills but also increase our recycling rate," said Kitzhaber, just before signing the bill at the state capitol.

Working alongside other Leos Service Club volunteers over a two-and-a-half-year period, Melton, president of Hood River Leos, and Danko, Leos vice president, estimate that their student group sorted about 220,000 bottles and cans. In the process, they also collected close to $11,000 in redemption returns, which they in turn gave back to local charities.

"Because we had more hands-on experience," said Melton, "we saw the inefficiencies in the current system. We saw that the proposed bill would fix a lot of them." That is how she and Danko decided to testify before the House committee for energy, water and the environment during preliminary hearings on the proposed changes.

The newly revised bottle deposit system will now require virtually all glass, metal or plastic beverage container purchases to come with a deposit payment, effective before Jan. 1, 2018.

Up until now plastic water and soda containers and beer have required the deposit, but not specialty items such as sports drinks, ice tea and juices.

"A lot of people don't know that water bottles have a deposit even now," said Ali Danko, "and so I think this bill will make it easier since everything will be redeemable."

The new legislation will also raise the deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents if the statewide redemption rate drops below 80 percent for two consecutive years.

Another addition to Oregon's progressive legislation for recycling will now increase access to redemption sites for recyclers. There will be an expansion of a now experimental program of centralized redemption centers. These sites, once available statewide will replace local grocery stores redemption centers.

That information comes from Melton's direct experience with drivers who regularly showed up at the Leos collection site, offering to give away the cash from their bottles in exchange for convenience and a desire to help out local charities.

The Leos' Saturday recycling program began in Rosauers' parking lot with the Lions newspaper recycling trailer, which is now located across the street in the open lot.

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