Photo Credit: Mike Mozart (CC-By-2.0)

One of the most often heard concerns these last couple years from people in Iowa Senate District 9 is about the nickel deposit on containers and the lack of redemption centers in which to get your five cents back.

The Iowa Beverage Container Deposit Law, or “Bottle Bill” as most people refer to it, was enacted in 1978 in response to the number of cans found discarded in road ditches. Multiple states have enacted similar bills, usually originating about the same time as Iowa. In Iowa the bottle bill covers beer, carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, wine coolers, wine, and liquor. Since the time of enactment, many similar products, like Gatorade and bottled water, have been introduced to the marketplaces which are not covered by the deposit law.

Under Iowa law, the wholesaler charges the retailer five cents upon delivery. The retailer passes this nickle deposit on to the consumer at the time of purchase.  The consumer brings the used, empty container to a redemption center or to the retailer in order to reclaim the nickel they paid to the retailer. The redemption center sorts the cans for pickup by the wholesaler who distributes each product.  The wholesalers complete the loop by paying the redemption center or retailer the nickel, plus a penny per container for sorting. This has not changed since the law was enacted.

Forty years have passed since the bottle bill started paying people to bring back their cans and even walk our roadsides looking for discarded cans in order to make a little extra money. Inflation has eaten away at five cents, redemption centers struggle to cover expenses, and the reward for picking up cans is minimal. When redemption centers close, retailers are the only option for redeeming cans. I won’t list the things found in cans while sorting, but they shouldn’t be brought into grocery stores.

The pressure has been building for the Iowa Legislature to address the problems faced by the bottle bill. I have heard several possible solutions at local forums, in stores, and at the Capitol. Some of those options are:

  • Repeal the bottle bill and let containers go to recycling systems or the landfill
  • Double the deposit and the amount paid to the point of redemption
  • Expand the types of containers for which a deposit must be paid
  • Remove grocery stores as a point of redemption
  • Leave the deposit at five cents and have wholesalers or retailers pitch in another penny
  • Replace the Bottle Bill with recycling incentive programs and grants for beatification programs
  • Do nothing

After visiting with you across the district for several years, I believe the majority of the Iowans in Senate District 9 want to see the Bottle Bill continue.  Only a few have told me they want the deposit to end and go to curbside recycling.  I don’t see this issue as a partisan issue, I have heard the same points from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I would like feedback from the district on your preferences.

You will be seeing more discussions and headlines on Iowa tax reform in the coming weeks. This will be happening at the same time as we work a de-appropriation bill through both chambers to send it to the governor. I’ll be working to find ways to cut spending and the size of government, so the private sector can get ahead of the growth of public spending. This tax reform must be big and bold to position Iowa for growth in an era of flat commodity prices in the agriculture sector. More on this subject in the coming weeks.

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