Given that all cans and bottles are now worth 10 cents apiece, we can't fail to get rich, right?

KELLYThere's a big change taking place in the way we're being asked to turn in our cans and bottles for money.

In the Portland area, at least, we're now told to take all redeemable empty bottles and cans to special "BottleDrop Centers" and not the stores where we bought them. And to make sure there's some incentive to do that, the state just this spring increased the amount we get for each one — to a whopping 10 cents.

Now, being an incurable cheapskate with more time than money on my hands, there's no way I'm going to throw away my redeemable cans and bottles (or even toss them in my recycle bin, like so many of my friends seem to do).

When I was just a young scribe-to-be growing up on the Oregon coast, we used to gather up pop bottles we found — not my dad's beer bottles, of course, because they were plentiful enough to be worth a small fortune and quite unmanageable for a kid without a dump truck — and lug them the two miles to the Tidewater store, where we did all of our impulse buying on candy, soda pop and even three-in-one model cars when we were especially flush.

In fact, it was no small feat hauling a bag of pop bottles in the olden days, because one regular-size Coke bottle weighed about 10 pounds, due to the fact that they were made of that special, unbreakable, 1-inch-thick glass.

Also, allow me to remind you that, before Oregon's bottle bill became law in 1971 (which certainly includes the '50s and '60s of my youth), all you got for beer bottles and cans was 1 cent, and for soda cans and bottles it was 3 cents.

Try turning yourself into the next Warren Buffett with that kind of return, kids.

Given that all cans and bottles are now worth 10 cents apiece, we can't fail to get rich, right? Well, there is one slight hitch. he BottleDrop Centers are too full of other cheapskates taking in their cans and bottles.

It's kind of like that famous Yogi Berra quote: "Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore; the lines are too long."

Well, I can testify that I have gone to the BottleDrop Center in Tigard's Canterbury Square many, many times and just passed on by because of the crowds inside. I've also lucked out a few times (usually later in the afternoon) and been successful in my bottle-return mission.

My own trouble is, I've usually got just a couple of grocery sacks filled with cans and bottles, and everybody else is dragging giant plastic bags the size of bouncy houses — which means, when they do get to one of the many machines around the room's perimeter, they spend a long, long, long time there.

On the other hand, my average time at one of the machines is about two minutes, so I'm in the center and out in no more than five minutes.

I know what you're thinking. It's me. I don't fit in at the BottleDrop Center any more than I did at Costco, where I'd try to go to pick up two or three quick items and would get caught up in those ridiculous checkout lines. Hey, some of us don't NEED a 55-gallon drum of martini olives, and I don't believe in filling so many carts I become a human freight train, pushing one, pulling another one or two — so I'm just not ever gonna fit the Costco profile.

The same is true of how I deal with the BottleDrop Center — which, by the way, is a wonderfully clean, organized place that is clearly designed to get us all in and out as fast as possible.

And don't try to tell me I just need to wait until I have MORE cans and bottles so I can be more like all the other knuckleheads gumming up the works. I don't have room for them at home, and I really don't want to spend more than five minutes in the BottleDrop Center.

How about an express line to one of the machines, for those of us with two or three grocery bags full? They could even set up a little child-size door with a sign above it: "If you and your bags can get through this little hole in one fell swoop, please be our guest!"

It's crazy enough; it just might work.

Mikel Kelly is retired, which may have something to do with the fact that he's so cranky all the time. But, come to think of it, he was cranky during his 41 years in the newspaper business, too.

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