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Monday, January 2, 2017

Five Cent Deposit

Nuka Cola Vending Machine from the Fallout video game.
No link because their webpage ate my computer.
Oregon has a bottle deposit law that requires a nickel deposit on almost all bottled drinks. When we were younger and more tightly wound, we would diligently save all of our beer bottles and carry them to the grocery store to get our deposit refunded. A month's worth of beer bottles worked out to almost $5! Woo hoo!

A few years ago I quit participating in this waste of time, but my wife, always concerned about money, persisted. Then one day last summer we are out running some errands together, and one of her errands is to return the cans and bottles rattling around in the back of her car. Now it used to be, when Hank's was still in business, you could count up your cans and bottles, take them to Hank's, tell the bottle boy how many you had and he would write you a ticket you could take to the cashier. He was happy because he didn't have to count the bottles, and I was happy because I didn't have to wait for him to count the bottles. It was one of those all-too-rare win-win situations. But Hank's has gone out of business and now if you want to get your deposit back you have to deal with one of those Robocop anti-vending machines.

So we're driving around and we stop at a grocery store (Freddie's or Safeway, makes no difference, they both work the same way), but half the machines are broken and there are a bunch of people using the ones that aren't. We stop at two more stores, got the anti-vending machine to take some of our cans and bottles, and gave away the rest. We spent like two hours on this debacle and cleared like $2. Never again, I said.

So now I dump a couple of dollars worth of cans and bottles in the recycling bins ever two weeks. Rumor has it that there was a guy coming around before the trash trucks and scarfing up all the returnables, but then one of our idiot neighbors complained (why? and to who?), and that doesn't happen anymore. Of course, it could be that our phantom bottle collector decided it wasn't worth his time or gasoline to pursue this. I mean, the grocery stores have some kind of ridiculously low daily limit like $5 or $10 on the amount you can collect each day, which means you would need to visit a dozen stores every day in order to make enough money to survive, and you would probably burn $20 worth of gas to get to all those stores.

Rumor has it that the state is going to raise the bottle deposit to ten cents, but until they get some kind of efficient system in place for refunding those deposits, trying to collect those deposits is going to be a thankless task. But as long as there are enough people who have nothing better to do with their time than to pick up trash, and who value their time down in the pennies-per-hour range, then the cans and bottles alongside the road will continue to get picked up.


We reorganized our kitchen cupboards over the holiday. Most of our pots and pans were looking pretty raggedy. They all had some kind of non-stick coating that was badly worn. There is a rumor floating about that Teflon is bad for the environment, though we aren't really sure if it's causing any damage, after all it is almost completely chemically inert, but microscopic traces of the stuff are showing up everywhere. So the pans are ugly, and there might be some vague problem with using Teflon coated pans for cooking, so we go looking for some new ceramic coated ones. Costco delivers a set for a hundred bucks, or was it $60? I forget. In any case we have new ones and the only thing to do with the old ones is to dump them in the recycling bin. I mean, if they aren't good enough for us, is it really fair to expect that anyone else would want them? Would Goodwill even accept them?

This is like a cardinal sin. The pans are still perfectly good, and if we were worried about the non-stick coating, I could have ground or burned it off. Of course that is going to send more Teflon into the environment and I would have a bunch of pans that would have to be scrubbed each time they were used.

And dumping them into the recycling should be an acceptable solution. I mean we recycle our aluminum soda cans after just one use. Pans are more durable, in the good old days, they should have lasted forever. But times have changed. How much time do you want to spend scrubbing pots and pans? Me, I scrubbed one once and I didn't mind it, but I can see that doing it on regular basis could get old.

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