PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregonians have saved $1 million for their Oregon College Savings Plans by recycling bottles and cans through BottleDrop, the Oregon State Treasury’s office announced Wednesday. 

In Oregon, each bottle and can returned to a recycling facility results in a 10-cent return. Since BottleDrop began partnering with the Oregon College Savings Plan in November 2019, anyone who returns their bottles and cans to BottleDrop locations has the option to put that money directly into an Oregon College Savings Plan

After a little more than three years of this partnership, Oregonians have reached the milestone of saving $1 million for higher education through BottleDrop returns. 

“We are excited to see bottle and can redemptions continuing to turn into big returns for Oregon College Savings Plan participants,” said Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read. “Saving a combined $1 million toward education and training after high school is a significant accomplishment, and one that comes with an important bonus conservation benefit.” 

Anyone who returns their containers to BottleDrop locations around the state can set up automatic fund transfers from their account to one or more Oregon College Savings Plan accounts. 

The $1 million saved through the partnership has supported more than 5,000 Oregonians saving for higher education. 

“This is the only place in the world where people can so directly connect recycling and environmental stewardship with education savings,” said Jules Bailey, president and CEO of the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which operates BottleDrop.

Anyone with a BottleDrop account can save money for themselves, their kids, their grandchildren or as a gift to anyone who has an Oregon College Savings Plan account. 

The Branam family from Portland has used BottleDrop to save more than $3,500 for college in two years. Ceci Branam, who’s 11, and her 7-year-old brother Eli have partnered with their neighbors, friends and family members to collect containers. 

“We saw this as an opportunity to help Ceci and Eli learn more about being good stewards of the environment, building community with our neighbors, and contributing to their college savings accounts,” said John Branam, Ceci and Eli’s father. 

He said it also teaches them how challenging it can be to save and pay for college. 

“Addressing it through incremental progress is a powerful, and important, life lesson for kids,” he said. 

Through BottleDrop, Oregonians can also contribute to a tax-friendly Oregon ABLE Savings Plan to help people with disabilities and their families save money. Anyone who makes contributions to an Oregon ABLE account can earn the state’s refundable tax credit worth up to $300. 

To use BottleDrop refunds for Oregon College Savings Plan or Oregon ABLE Savings Plan accounts, Oregonians should return their empty beverage containers in green bags at any of BottleDrop’s 97 locations across the state.  

The Oregon College Savings Plan is a state-sponsored 529 plan that anyone can open. It comes with special tax advantages and earns interest just like any other college savings plan. 

The money saved in the Oregon College Savings Plan can be used for not only tuition at any higher education institution that is eligible for financial aid, but also for books, room and board, computers and more. 

People who have an Oregon College Savings Plan and who save $300 a year for their child can receive up to $300 a year in state income tax credit. 

Oregon College Savings Plan funds can be used in any state or any institution around the world that is eligible for federal financial aid. 

If a child decides not to pursue any sort of higher education, or if they receive enough scholarships to cover their expenses, Oregon College Savings Plans can be transferred to anyone within a first cousin relationship, including parents, to use for their higher education.

If a family does not wish to transfer the money to a relative, the funds can be withdrawn, but any withdrawals that do not go toward qualified expenses will be subject to federal income tax and may be subject to a 10% federal penalty, along with possibly state and local income taxes.