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The surprise late session issue of reviving Iowa’s popular bottle bill caused quite a bit of attention last week. For years we have been waiting for a solution that could bring all parties together. Years of disappointment and frustrated Iowans seemed to come to an end as the Iowa Senate took a core plan from the stakeholders and expanded it to include modern ideas. This bill, SF 2378, was passed out of the Senate on March 29. This bill was based on our current system, but increased funding where it was needed. Our goal was to meet the three goals we believed Iowans wanted. Those are to keep the deposit at 5 cents, get dirty cans and bottles out of food retailers’ businesses, and provided easy redemption opportunities.

The central point of the bill was to increase the handling fee paid to redemption centers from the current one cent per can to three cents. This would have an immediate effect as redemption centers would suddenly have triple the cash flow to pay employees and purchase machinery for efficiency. Along with this change was language to define and allow Mobile Redemption Systems, which would be a place you could throw your bags full of cans after affixing an identification sticker. You would be paid in an account that you could transfer to yourself at any time.

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One item that grocers supported was allowing food retailers to opt out of the redemption requirement. For years, grocers and convenience stores have complained that unsanitary cans are being carried back into clean food retail environments. With the Legislature unable to move a bill, the requirement remained. It wasn’t until the Covid emergency orders that recognized the health risk of bringing used, dirty cans into the same place while clean food was being carried out at the same time. Additionally, food retailers have been redeeming about $11 million in cans annually. This volume and revenue can be tripled and run through the redemption centers, further accelerating the expansion and new openings of redemption centers.

To put together a bill that could make it all the way to the governor, we reduced regulations on redemption centers and gave them two more cents per can. Grocers got cans out of their stores and did not have to add their money to help increase the handling fee. This had been looked at and it was difficult in the current system anyway. The whole increase would fall on the pop and beer wholesalers and in return we lowered the beer excise tax by $4 million and recognized they could keep the deposits from unredeemed cans. This is current practice under the original legislation that we are living under now.

Even with the industry players all on board it was still a very difficult sell to get the Senate on board. There were several disagreements over individual policy points. The winning argument of the day was a reminder that polling as recent as February indicated 83% of Iowans wanted the bottle bill saved or even expanded. Senate Republicans are here at the will of the people of Iowa and we wanted to find a way to end this frustrating wait. This bill satisfied the wishes of Iowans. It was passed on a party-line vote and sent to the House. I look forward to working with them to modernize and save the bottle bill.

Author: Jason Schultz

State Sen. Jason Schultz served three terms in the House prior to being elected to the Iowa Senate. Schultz served seven years in the National Guard and served as volunteer fire fighter for the Schleswig Volunteer FD for 13 years, two years as the department's chief.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The bottle law needs to go by way of the garbage! Like recycling bins, maybe Iowa should have a “Bottle Recycling Bin,” but quit charging us $.05 per bottle. The ease of redeeming is atrocious, time-consuming & expensive over time. Give all the cans & bottles back to the manufacturers, but not at the expense of citizens! We’re really tired of petty little “taxes” which aren’t worth the intended purpose.

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