It’s Time to Update the Bottle Bill

Andy McKean
Iowa State Representative, 58th Dist.

     The Bottle Bill has accomplished a lot of great things for the State of Iowa. Enacted in 1978, it is considered Iowa’s most successful environmental initiative. Thanks to the Bottle Bill, Iowans have recycled over 50 billion cans and bottles and have kept 33 billion tons of recyclables out of our landfills. It has helped clean up our parks and roadsides, been a tremendous source of revenue for community fundraising efforts, and hasn’t cost the State of Iowa a dime!

     However, the time has come to modernize the Bottle Bill and bring it into the 21st Century. It has never been updated and the time to do so is long overdue. Redemption centers are closing, redemption rates are decreasing (although they’re still much higher than most states) and grocery stores have legitimate concerns about having to deal with thousands of cans and bottles, some of which are pretty raunchy. These concerns have resulted in the introduction of legislation which would phase out the Bottle Bill. While I don’t think this bill has any chance of passage, it underscores that the time to update the Bottle Bill is long overdue!

     In response, I am introducing a two-point plan which I think could be a win for all concerned; a win for our redemption centers, a win for our grocery stores, and a win for the people of Iowa. Here are the details:

     I propose increasing the handling fee for Iowa’s redemption centers from 1 cent to 2 cents. Believe it or not, redemption centers have never seen an increase in the handling fee and simply can’t make a profit. No wonder that we have less than a 100 redemption centers in Iowa when we once had close to 500. Increasing the handling fee would make our redemption centers profitable and would result in the opening of many new ones. It would be great economic development for rural Iowa and, if the experience of other states is any indication, it would significantly boost redemption rates.

     The second part of my proposal would be to no longer require grocery stores to accept can and bottle returns. Once redemption rates reach 75 percent, which should result from the increase of the handling fee, grocery stores could elect to no longer handle returns. Iowans will have plenty of convenient alternatives thanks to the increase in the number of redemption centers and the increased availability of drop-in machines. Once the grocery stores no longer have the requirement of redeeming cans and bottles, it would be a good time to expand the bottle bill to include water, tea, and energy drinks. This would make our redemption centers more profitable and would help encourage the original intent of the bottle bill – to keep cans and bottles out of our ditches and encourage responsible recycling.

     Let’s update and modernize the Bottle Bill and allow it to continue to enhance Iowa’s environment into the future.


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