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Many water bottles still lack labels despite law.

Byline: Nat Levy The Register-Guard

CORRECTIONS(RAN JAN. 10, 2009):Front Page: All water bottles that the Eugene Costco store has sold since the beginning of 2009 have the legally required 5-cent Oregon deposit marking, said the store's general manager, Michael Cotton. On some bottles, the marking is in the form of small dot-print text on the neck of the bottle, he said. On others, it is in a prominent spot on the label on the side of the bottle. A story on Page A1 on Thursday inaccurately stated that some Costco water bottles were missing the deposit marking.

Despite having more than a year to prepare for the Jan. 1 expansion of Oregon's Bottle Bill to include water bottles, some retailers and manufacturers are failing to display the new 5-cent deposit decal on water bottles they are selling in the state.

State regulators on Wednesday highlighted the shortcoming and said they may begin levying penalties against violators.

In checks at stores in the Eugene area, The Register-Guard found several prominent retailers are carrying water bottles without a factory- or distributor-produced deposit label. Some stores, such as Market of Choice and Albertsons, sought to make up for the problem by sticking individual deposit labels onto water bottles they sell. But other stores kept the label-less bottles on their shelves.

Under the new law, all stores that sell water bottles are now collecting a 5-cent deposit on them - regardless of whether the bottle has an Oregon deposit label.

Whether the lack of a label creates a problem for a consumer depends on how the consumer tries to get the deposit refunded on the empty. Some stores promise to give refunds even on label-less empties. But other stores may not - and legally they don't have to.

Costco Wholesale in Eugene seems to have had the most difficulty with the labeling. Of the visible bulk displays at the company's Chad Drive store, few had the Oregon 5-cent deposit label. Calls to the Costco corporate office for comment were not immediately returned.

At the Coburg Road Albertsons store, Crystal Geyser and Spring brands displayed neither the new Oregon deposit label, nor a makeshift label made at the store.

By contrast, the Franklin Boulevard Market of Choice had the 5-cent designation readily visible on all water bottles. Nigel Trusk, an assistant manager at Market of Choice, said that manufacturers or distributors had not put the labels on numerous bottles, so he and his employees made their own labels and stuck them on.

"We started putting stickers on a day or two before New Year's," Trusk said. "In total it took about two hours."

Trusk said that individual stores can only do so much, and that it is up to the distributors to apply the labels. He said he is still keeping an eye on shipments.

"For the most part, everyone was really on top of it," Trusk said. "It was the stuff coming in that I was worried about."

Some smaller stores, such as 7-Eleven, continue to carry bottles without the deposit label. When shown the bottles with missing labels, employees at the Coburg Road 7-Eleven went to the back and pulled out bottles with the deposit amount on them to replace the label-less ones.

An area representative for 7-Eleven said the company would provide refunds on empty water bottles that lacked the deposit label.

While that works for some stores, Oregon Liquor Control Commission spokeswoman Christie Scott said it is a big problem when stores are charging deposits on water bottles that don't have the Oregon deposit label.

"Someone's going to buy a case of water from retailer XYZ and pay deposit and then try to take it back to store ABC and they will be turned away," Scott said.

Effective Jan. 1, all retailers were required to carry only water bottles with an Oregon 5-cent refund value printed on the label. Previously, the deposit law had applied only to carbonated beverages.

The new law is the first change to the Bottle Bill in its 38-year existence.

OLCC, which enforces the Bottle Bill, was miffed that the industry has been lax in the expansion to include water bottles.

"We've given manufacturers since July 1 (2007) to get ready for this," Scott said.

The OLCC will be sending 40 inspectors around the state next week to make sure that labels are present on all water bottles.

If inspectors find bottles without the label, the store might be cited for a misdemeanor.

A second change to the Bottle Bill allows consumers to return bottles with labels to all stores that accept bottles from that type of beverage, even if they don't sell the particular brand. This rule only applies to stores with more than 5,000 square feet. Smaller stores are still allowed to turn away brands of drinks they don't sell.

OLCC predicts that consumers' ability to return water bottles, along with the requirement that stores take bottles of all brands, will double bottle returns.

By the numbers

3,745: Tons of bottles returned under the Oregon Bottle Bill in 2007

3.8: Number of oil barrels saved per ton of bottles recycled

14,231: Barrels of oil saved in 2007 by the recycling of plastic bottles in Oregon

Contact: To report bottles without deposit labels, contact the OLCC Bottle Bill hot line at (888) 426-2009
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Title Annotation:City/Region; The state may penalize stores that aren't complying with the new deposit notice
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 8, 2009
Words:891
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