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Alisa Shifflett, the state redemption center project manager, walks through the new Bottledrop Center in Medford on Thursday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Faster, cleaner bottle return debuts

As of Dec. 1, several local grocery stores will close their sticky, hassle-prone bottle-return rooms and direct customers to the new BottleDrop Redemption Center in Medford.

The center, in a 7,000-square-foot warehouse at 1179 Stowe Ave., opens Wednesday, Nov. 12, replacing the redemption service at all grocery stores within a 2-mile radius, including Albertsons on Ross Lane, Sherm's Thunderbird Market and Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer on Crater Lake Highway, Safeway in the Medford Center, Rite Aid, Trader Joe's and both Bi-Mart locations.

The Medford BottleDrop Center will be the 10th in the state. Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, in partnership with the grocery and beverage industries, operates and funds the BottleDrop project but is accountable to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which administers the Bottle Bill.

“Whenever we have an opening day at a redemption center, we call it a ‘soft opening’ because the center is open but stores are still accepting the regular can and bottle returns,” said Cherilyn Bertges, the OBRC’s communication and outreach manager. “When they close (Dec. 1), that will be our grand opening.”

From Dec. 1 on, grocery stores within in a 2- to 3-mile radius will only accept up to 24 cans or bottles per day per person. This includes Safeway on Crater Lake Highway, WinCo Foods, Fred Meyer on Center Drive, Costco and Ray’s Food Place in Central Point. All other grocery stores will continue to accept cans and bottles as usual.

“(The BottleDrop center) will take the recycling business, which is a dirty business, away from places selling food,” Bertges said.

“And with more containers coming to one spot, we can load them up and not be driving around to all the retailers,” she added.

Stores in close proximity to the location on Stowe Avenue were more than happy to be rid of the sticky, often broken reverse vending machines, even if it meant paying the OBRC a BottleDrop participation fee.

“It’s been a good customer service thing, but it does wreak havoc,” said Jody Crow, who manages the Albertsons on Ross Lane.

Signs with information about the new BottleDrop center have been posted at all of the affected grocery stores, Bertges said.

OBRC hired eight employees to assist customers and keep the area around the machines clean.

There’s a self-service area with fast machines that don’t crush the cans on the spot, reducing the risk of jamming and the need for maintenance.

People with fewer than 50 cans also can request a hand count at the customer service counter and receive a receipt.

“With both of those systems, you get your cash on site,” Bertges said. “We have a cash machine, similar to an ATM machine, that will kick out what you are owed.”

But the "easy drop" or "green bag" method is the most convenient way to recycle and redeem your bottles and cans, she said.

Simply set up an account at the center and receive two complimentary bags with a barcode associated with your account. Fill the bag and drop it off any time at the center.

“Once the cans are processed, the amount will appear in your account,” Bertges explained. “You can access your money either at the center or at kiosks located at all the participating grocery stores."

Additional bags cost $2.50 for a roll of 10, and there’s a 15-cent processing fee per bag.

This method, Bertges said, is especially appreciated by folks who would throw their bottles in a commingled recycling bin or in the trash to avoid the bottle return areas at grocery stores.

“Going to a different spot is the hardest thing for people,” she said. “But once people get used to going to a different place, they love the centers because they are clean, staffed to help and because of the green bag program.”

The Medford BottleDrop Redemption Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Staff will give tours of the whole facility from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

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