Portland, Ore. — Jonathan Polonsky, President and CEO of Plaid Pantry, recently discussed the operational challenges faced by Plaid Pantry stores regarding the Oregon Bottle Bill regulations.

He says Plaid Pantry is mandated to accept bottles and cans at all store locations during operating hours. The quantity of bottles and cans accepted per person per day is contingent upon whether the store is within a designated redemption zone, with limits set at 24 bottles and cans for stores inside the zone and 50 for those outside.

Given that Plaid Pantry stores operate 24/7, they are often the only option for bottle and can redemption during late hours when other retailers and redemption centers are closed. Polonsky highlighted concerns regarding safety and employee well-being, citing instances of intoxicated individuals returning bottles and cans during late-night hours, which can compromise employee safety and contribute to higher turnover rates.

Polonsky proposed limiting bottle and can redemption hours to align with the operating hours of redemption centers, which typically close by 6 PM. He also suggested allowing redemption centers to operate 24/7 to distribute the volume of returns more evenly across retailers.

Despite these challenges, Polonsky expressed disappointment in the lack of communication and engagement from state authorities regarding potential solutions. He emphasized the need for dialogue with decision-makers to address the operational impact of bottle redemption requirements on Plaid Pantry stores.

Currently, Plaid Pantry is working to manage the effects of the temporary moratorium on bottle and can returns at one of its stores, which has resulted in increased returns at neighboring stores. Polonsky expressed a desire to engage with state authorities to explore sustainable solutions to the challenges posed by bottle redemption requirements.

As of now, there has been no indication of plans to approach state officials directly with the proposal. However, Polonsky remains open to dialogue and collaboration to address the operational challenges faced by Plaid Pantry stores.

Polonsky wrote the following Op Ed:

An adjustment to Oregon’s famous Bottle Bill could have a BIG positive impact on our neighborhoods!

Do you recall the old saying: “nothing good happens after 2:00 a.m.?” Well, if you were to review video surveillance tapes from that hour, you might put greater belief into this old saying. Frequently, in the middle of the night, without any other options available, desperate people arrive at our stores to get cash for the bottles and cans they have collected by rummaging through recycling bins up and down the streets of Portland’s neighborhoods. These people often come to our stores in groups and at various stages of intoxication from alcohol or drugs. They may be belligerent and intimidating, presenting a major safety risk to our store associates. We have experienced far too many situations where an associate finally quits their job over concerns for their personal safety. These ongoing situations have grown to an unacceptable level — I believe we can do far better.

Under the Bottle Bill, certain retailers are required to accept bottles and cans during all hours of operation — again, even at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Plaid Pantry stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year. Thus, we are required by law to accept bottles and cans all hours of the day.

Redemption centers operated by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), which is responsible for processing all the returned bottles and cans in Oregon, does not have extended hours of operation — rather such centers operate between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Do you see the 2:00 a.m. problem? I believe our State could take a very positive step to improve the conditions in many of our local neighborhoods with a small adjustment in the Bottle Bill. I suggest the hours to return bottles and cans be made consistent, irrespective of where such bottles and cans are returned: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at all locations.

The number of bottles and cans being recycled in our State is a great accomplishment and demonstrates the benefit of the Bottle Bill. However, I do not want to see the Bottle Bill jeopardized because of the many unintended consequences associated with the ongoing drug abuse problems in our Portland-Metro area. I believe it is unfair to put the burden of collecting an enormous number of bottles and cans on many of the small stores, in the middle of the night, when other options are not available.

I commend Governor Kotek for taking an initial positive step at addressing the drug crisis by allowing one of my stores and a nearby Safeway in downtown Portland a temporary exception to the Bottle Bill requirements. Unfortunately, this simply moved the problem a few blocks away to two other stores we operate. I would urge Governor Kotek to test a slightly bolder step of limiting redemptions to the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., if not Statewide, in the Portland Metro as a pilot program. Action needs to be taken now; my associates’ safety depends on it!

Jonathan Polonsky – Portland, OR.

President & CEO

Plaid Pantry

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