CLINTON — Iowa’s Beverage Container Control Law, which created the five-cent deposit for carbonated beverage bottles and cans, has been the subject of repeal or amendment among state legislators.
The potential repeal, though “nothing of substance has been moved forward,” according to Iowa Sen. Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), would have an effect on local redemption centers and grocery stores that offer the sorting, counting and deposit services.
The change has long been a subject of discussion among legislators, and now, it appears to have a bit of significant steam behind it at the state capitol.
“I’ve had several conversations with people who are working to make a change, and they’ve been working on it for quite awhile,” Hart said Thursday. “Now we’re all waiting to see whatever bill comes before us. It will be awhile, I think, before the immediate effects of a possible change come to light. That all remains to be seen.”
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the law was originally put in place to “help reduce and clean up litter by recovering beverage containers for recycling.” Now, the department estimates that 1.65 billion beverage containers are redeemed every year throughout the state — that’s 86 percent of all beverage containers sold.
In Clinton, there are several options for Gateway area residents who contribute to that number. Officials at those establishments are able to see firsthand how big of an impact the deposit has.
“It’s always been a very popular thing here,” Hy-Vee Clinton Store Director Chad Seely said regarding the deposit law. “For a lot of people, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re told that you can get a nickel just for turning in a can or bottle, people jump at that chance. Everybody wants that.”
According to the DNR, the state’s “bottle law” as it is colloquially called, sets Iowa apart from other states regarding where the actual transfers of redeemable materials and money occur.
“Iowa seems to be unique in that all of the exchanges of full product, deposits, empties, refunds and handling fees all take place entirely among the Distributors, Retailers, Consumers, and Redemption Centers,” a summary of the law from the DNR states. “No money goes to or is paid out by the Dept. of Natural Resources.”
Sen. Hart said there is, as there should be, a sense that potential amendments to the Beverage Container Control Law should be a bipartisan issue.
The implications, specifically environmentally, should have the clear focus and attention of those on both sides of the aisle at the Statehouse in Des Moines.
“This absolutely should not be a partisan issue,” Hart said. “We have to make sure that, if any changes are made, we control litter and control the probable increase in how much litter we see. This law has been able to give people an incentive to not just throw their bottles and cans on the ground when they’re done. Really, there is a lot of invested interest in this. But unfortunately, also some competing interests.”
The DNR agrees with Hart on these sentiments, according to the entity’s law summary.
“It can be a hassle for all parties involved, but it’s a long-established part of doing business in Iowa,” the DNR stated. “Many thousands of tons of recyclable materials are diverted from being littered or landfilled. We save tremendous amounts of energy and of otherwise extracted raw materials, and Iowa is just a cleaner place to live.”
Hart is also worried about the future of local redemption centers upon a potential amendment or repeal along with the environmental aspect of the issue. Calling most of the discussion so far “inconsistent hodge podge,” the Senator is, at this point, hoping that whatever comes from the discussion is good for all parties involved.
That won’t be easy, however.
“I just hope we end up with an environmentally conscious, easy, and sensical outcome,” Hart said. “You know, we’ve got redemption centers that are facing uncertainty, we’ve got grocery stores that really don’t want to be handling the cans and bottles, so there are a lot of angles to this. It’s a tricky issue with some conflicting interests, so it will be interesting to see where it all goes.”