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From Rep. Megan Jones’ newsletter:

When the “bottle bill” was enacted in 1979, there were no recycling programs in the state or around the country.

We have come a long way in recycling thanks to the bottle bill. That said, I still hear a lot about how we can do better.

Ten years after Iowa enacted the bottle bill, the state legislature enacted waste diversion laws to incentivize the development of recycling programs by our local waste collection systems. This diversion law successfully enabled local communities across the state to offer curbside recycling to over 83% of the citizens in this state. As a result, redemption rates on beverage containers have been falling from a redemption rate of 93% in 2000 to 64% in 2017.

I have heard from many Iowans that would rather put all recyclables in a curbside bin. The primary reasons I hear about this are because people have grown tired of separating recyclable beverage containers from other recyclables. Additionally, the transport of dirty containers back to the place where they buy food is burdensome and unsanitary. Generally, these people want the ease and convenience of placing cans and bottles with their other recyclables in their recycling bins.

That is the consumer side- but I also hear concerns from businesses too. Many grocers and convenience stores face the overwhelming burden of accepting the returned beverage containers. Many suggest “If they sell it, they should take it back.” Yet we have little precedent for enforcement against the increasing pool of retailers selling these items- hardware stores, department stores, dollar stores, electronic stores, online retailers and vending machines- who all sell the product, accept the container deposits, but opt to not take back the containers for redemption. 

There is no easy solution here. The legislature has gone around and around with different concepts – increasing the deposit to a dime, getting rid of the nickel, increasing the handling fee to 2 cents, adding water bottles, adding sports drinks- it has all been on the table for decades.

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle: relieving grocers of the burden, equal enforcement of the law, more redemption centers, etc.

 As we head into session next week, I look forward to the variety of ideas and issues on the docket and to moving Iowa forward.

Author: Press Release