Some Grocery Stores Are Shutting Down This Beloved Service, Customers Say

·2 min read

Some Americans depend on making additional income through cashing in their recyclable cans. However, in McMinnville, Oregon, that service remains paused at several large grocery chains in the area.

"My effort to redeem six months' worth of accumulated cans and bottles was thwarted recently," Brad Thompson, a retired journalism professor, wrote in an article for Yamhill County's News-Register.

He reports that the city's four major grocery chains—Albertsons, Roth's, Safeway, and WinCo—have currently shut down their redemption centers. Evidently, there doesn't seem to be one consistent answer for why this is happening across the chains, either. After speaking with workers and managers at the local stores and getting no leads, Thompson turned to someone at the congenial health department.

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This person proposed it could be a state Department of Agriculture rule, seeing as the agency's food safety unit oversees grocery stores. After a quick email to that unit, Thompson was directed to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) website, which clearly states the agency oversees bottle bill redemption. What did he find?

"The website had a page devoted to which counties are mandated to have stores continue recycling cans and bottles and which are not, based on their COVID risk levels. Stores in the 18 counties at low or moderate risk must keep their return centers open," he wrote.

However, a news release posted on Dec. 3 revealed that the OLCC temporarily waived that requirement for counties at high and extreme risk. Essentially, the agency had indicated that it was allowing grocery chains to not accept bottles and cans at this time, but not requiring them to do so.

When Thompson presented this announcement to one of the store managers, she said their redemption centers remained closed due to an Oregon Occupational Safety and Health rule. However, a glance at the Oregon Health Authority site showed no sign of the rule, Thompson said.

Through his investigation work, he found that the key grocery chains in the area are not mandated by state agencies to keep their redemption facilities closed, they're just choosing to do so. Or, it could be one big miscommunication. Regardless, grocery stores shouldn't be the only place people can go to return their cans. Thompson concludes that other redemption facilities should be made available to the public.

"The state needs to locate a BottleDrop Redemption Center in McMinnville, and not just because of COVID. A local center would benefit both the public and the grocery stores that find redemption of bottles and cans burdensome," he wrote.

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