Bipartisan effort underway to expand Iowa bottle bill
- A soon-to-be-filed bill, HF 2155, would expand Iowa's list of containers eligible for redemption to include tea, juice, water and sports drinks. The bill already has bipartisan support from 40 state representatives, as reported by the Des Moines Register.
- This bill would also increase the current handling fees for redemption centers and retailers from $0.01 to $0.02 per container. Grocery stores would still be required to accept containers unless a redemption center was available within one mile. That increase is seen as a way to preserve jobs at the 125 redemption centers around Iowa, as reported by the Quad-City Times and KCRG.
- The Iowa Grocery Industry Association remains opposed to any expansion of the existing bottle bill, and is hoping to repeal it. The organization describes the program as burdensome for retailers and wants to instead charge a smaller fee on each container sold to fund statewide recycling and litter reduction.
Iowa's bottle bill has been in effect for nearly 40 years, and like many of its counterparts, the program hasn't seen an increase in its redemption amount or handling fee.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has long touted an 86% recovery rate for covered containers, though a recently released waste characterization study showed that has since dropped to 71%. Glass had the highest recovery rate, followed by aluminum and plastic.
Some of this could be related to changing consumer trends that are favoring bottled water and other drinks over soda. The fact that five cents isn't worth as much as it used to be may also be a factor. This was recently highlighted in New York with a report about $102.7 million in deposits going uncollected in 2016.
This climate of uncertainty for the state's deposit program ramped up last year when a House committee advanced a repeal bill and has since continued thanks to messaging by the grocery association. Delaware repealed its bottle bill in 2010, in favor of a container tax related to the Universal Recycling Law. Similar efforts have been made in Massachusetts, Maine and elsewhere, though were rebuffed due in part to the job loss argument.
Recently, bottle bill reform or expansion has seemed to gain new momentum in multiple states.
Oregon expanded its redemption rate to $0.10 last year, and will also launch a pilot program to refill glass beer bottles. Michigan, the only other state with a $0.10 deposit on all containers, has seen new interest in expansion following increased political attention on recycling.
California has also been the focus of significant attention, due to the widespread closure of redemption centers related to what many view as a broken payment structure. The state is now taking multiple steps to stabilize these finances and create new models for redemption.
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