Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed into law a measure that will require Oregon residents to pay an extra 5-cent deposit for bottles of water. Empty bottles can then be redeemed for the nickel.
There was a terrific article in the New York Times Sunday magazine a couple weeks ago actually, detailing this issue in Oregon and in other states.
Oregon actually had the nation's first deposit legislation -- the Bottle Bill, passed in 1971. Ten other states -- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massacusetts, Michigan and New York -- later followed suit, attaching a small value to empty bottles. (They each use a 5-cent deposit, except Michigan, where an empty bottle scores you a dime.)
But all of those laws applied only to soda and beer. In the 1970's, Americans just didn't buy bottled water the way we do now. In 2007, Americans will go through 30 billion bottles of water. That's why environmental advocates were pushing Oregon to update its law to include water bottles.
It's a pretty safe bet that other states -- especially the ones that already have deposit laws on the books -- will follow Oregon's lead again, or at least debate expanding their measures to include water.
Interestingly, the one other thing none of the original bottle bills included was an inflation adjustment. A nickel in 1971 translates to about a penny today. I have a feeling that if empty bottles of beer, soda and water were suddenly valued at 25 cents each, people would be saving them and redeeming them, rather than throwing them away.
Photo via Flickr, from angiesharp29.