Bill Allowing Grocery Stores to Opt-Out of Bottle and Can Redemption Alive After Legislative Deadline

A bill that would allow grocery stores to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles remains a live round following this week’s second legislative “Funnel.”  Most proposals that didn’t pass the House or Senate, plus committee in the opposite chamber by Friday, are “dead” for the rest of session.  The main exceptions are bills dealing with taxes, spending and government oversight.  The opt-out bill, SF 520, passed out of subcommittee last week.  Because it’s under consideration by the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, it’s safe until session adjourns. 

In addition to the retailer opt-out provision, the bill would increase the handling fee paid to redemption centers. Currently, beverage distributors pay redemption centers a one-cent handling fee for every container they process.  SF 520 would double the fee to two cents, with retailers on the hook for the extra penny.  Recent analysis by Iowa State University economist Dr. Dermot Hayes, however, found that it would take a three-cent handling fee to keep rural redemption centers in business.  It would also take a three-cent fee to spur the opening of new redemption centers outside urban areas.

The measure would also authorize some of the state’s beer distributors to launch a proprietary automated system.  This “Droppett” program would automatically deposit refunds into special online accounts set-up by consumers.  Unlike redemption centers however, Droppett would be exempt from the requirement to immediately return deposits.

With the second Funnel concluded, lawmakers will now shift toward hashing out the budget and working on various tax proposals.  The legislative session is tentatively scheduled to conclude on Friday, May 3.  But, it’s not unusual for legislators to continue working for several weeks beyond that point.


Bill Allowing Grocery Stores to Opt-Out of Bottle Redemption Advances, Includes Key Changes

A bill that would allow grocery stores to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles is one step closer to the Senate floor.  SF 520 passed out of subcommittee Tuesday following testimony by numerous stakeholders.  Ways and Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) headed the subcommittee.  Vice Chair Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs) and Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) rounded out the group. 

Initially a much narrower measure, the subcommittee amended SF 520 to bring it in line with more sweeping legislation introduced by Feenstra, SSB 1225.  The revised bill would allow a grocery store or other retailer to immediately stop redeeming cans and bottles if they provide notice to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  However, they could only do so if there is an alternative redemption option within 10 miles of their store, including a “dealer-agent.” 

The “dealer-agent” designation is new, and would apply to a proprietary program created by the state’s beer distributors.  Under their “Droppett” system, a consumer would set up an online account and leave their cans and bottles at a satellite location.  At a later, unspecified time, machines would count and sort the containers.  Afterward, the deposit would be applied to the online account.  In contrast, redemption centers and participating retailers would still be required to turn over deposits immediately.

The amendment to SF 520 would also increase the handling fee paid to redemption centers.  Currently, beverage distributors pay redemption centers one cent for every container they process.  Under this measure, the fee would be doubled to two cents per bottle or can.  SF 520 initially called for distributors to pay the extra penny.  Now, like SSB 1225, the amended bill would require retailers to cover the extra cent.

SF 520 now advances to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.  During Tuesday’s subcommittee, lawmakers stressed that the bill remains a work in progress, and they welcome feedback and alternative solutions from all Iowans. 

Bottle Bill Supporters Encouraged to Speak Out Against SF 520 at Subcommittee Hearing

A bill that would allow grocery stores and other retailers to immediately opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles will get a subcommittee hearing Tuesday.  Under SF 520, stores could simply give notice to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that they no longer intend to return deposits on beer, pop, wine and liquor containers.  Instead, consumers would have to go to redemption centers to get their five-cent refunds.

The other major provision of the bill would increase the handling fee paid to redemption centers from one cent per container to two cents.  The one-cent fee is currently paid by beverage distributors (who deliver bottled and canned drinks to stores, restaurants and bars).  Under SF 520, distributors would be on the hook for the second penny as well. 

On Tuesday, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Vice Chair Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs) and Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City) will hear arguments for and against SF 520.  If the measure passes subcommittee, it will be eligible for consideration by the full Ways & Means Committee.

We encourage Iowa bottle bill supporters to speak out against SF 520 at Tuesday’s hearing

When:   Tuesday, March 26, 11:00 am

Where:  Iowa Capitol, 2nd Floor, Senate Lobbyist Lounge     

Senate Ways & Means Committee to Consider Bottle Bill Proposals

Lawmakers are shifting their attention toward taxes, spending and floor debate following the first legislative funnel.  Most bills that didn’t pass committee in the House or Senate by last Friday are now “dead” for the rest of session.  The Senate Ways and Means Committee is considering the two surviving bottle bill proposals.  Bills in that committee are exempt from funnel deadlines.

SSB 1225, sponsored by Ways & Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) is the more sweeping of the two measures.  Beginning this July, it would double the handling fee paid to redemption centers from one cent per container to two cents.  As in the current system, distributors would be responsible for paying the first penny.  Grocery stores and other retailers would have to pay the second cent.  In exchange, they could opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles beginning July 1, 2020.  All they would need to do is give notice to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The measure would also allow retailers to contract with a proprietary third-party system created by Iowa’s beer distributors. “Droppett” is an automated system that allows consumers to return cans and bottles to special locations and have their refunds deposited in an online account at a later date.

Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair Mark Segebart (R-Vail) put forward the other bottle bill proposal, SF 520.  The measure would also allow retailers to opt-out of redeeming containers, and increase the handling fee to two cents.  The second penny, however, would also come from beverage distributors.  The bill already cleared the first funnel by passing out of the Natural Resources Committee.  But because it deals directly with fees, it must pass the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee before being eligible for floor debate. 

After Key Deadline, Two Bottle Bill Proposals Remain in Play

Two bottle bill proposals remain alive following a key statehouse deadline.  Most legislation that didn’t pass both subcommittee and committee by the Friday, March 8 “funnel” is “dead” for the remainder of session.  The main exceptions to this rule are bills dealing with taxes, spending or government oversight.

Now, lawmakers have two bottle bill measures left to consider.  Senate File 520 would allow grocery stores and other retailers to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles by simply giving notice to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) effective July 1, 2020.  It would also increase the handling fee beer and soda distributors pay to redemption centers for processing deposit cans and bottles.  Currently set at a penny per container, SF 520 would double the handling fee to two cents.  This increase would take effect upon enactment.  SF 520 succeeded SF 59 originally introduced by Senator Mark Segebart (R-Vail).

The second bill was filed by Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).  SSB 1225 is similar to Segebart’s bill, but there are some important differences.  This measure would allow grocery stores and other retailers to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles if they’re located within ten miles of a redemption center or dealer agent, and they provide written notice to the DNR.  It would also double the handling fee to two cents, as proposed in SF 520.  Unlike Segebart’s bill, however, retailers would be responsible for paying the extra penny per container.  Finally, Feenstra’s measure would authorize retailers to outsource can and bottle redemption to a new, automated system created by the state’s beer distributors.  This “Droppett” program would allow consumers to leave their containers in special trailers and have their refunds deposited into an online account at a later date.

Another proposal that would have made large-scale changes to the bottle bill system did not survive funnel.  HF 181 would have expanded the five cent deposit to non-carbonated beverages, including water bottles, sports drinks, and bottled teas and coffees.  It would also have doubled the handling fee for redemption centers.  Two other House bills failed to clear the funnel deadline.  HSB 232 would have doubled the redemption center handling fee, and HF 412  would have allowed retailers to opt-out of can and bottle redemption.




Senate Bill Would Add New Player to Bottle Bill System

New legislation introduced this week would significantly change the Iowa bottle bill system as we know it.  Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) filed SSB 1225 Thursday.  

Under this measure, a retailer can choose to be a “participating dealer” and continue to redeem cans and bottles.  Or, they could refuse to redeem containers if a redemption center or “dealer agent” is located within 10 miles of their store.  A retailer must also provide notice to the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that they will no longer participate in the system. 

The legislation would further authorize beer distributors to launch their proprietary “Droppett”program  as “dealer agents.”  Instead of going to a store or redemption center, a customer could open an online account and leave cans and bottles at a Droppett trailer.  Machinery would sort and scan containers, and deposit money in the customer’s account at a later date (within a “reasonable time”).  In contrast, redemption centers and retailers that choose to keep redeeming containers would continue to immediately pay back deposits. 

The second major provision of Feenstra’s bill  would increase the handling fee paid  to redemption centers, but shift some of that burden to retailers.  Right now, beer and soda distributors pay redemption centers one cent for each container they process.  SSB 1225 would double the fee to two cents per container.  However, retailers—not distributors—would pay the extra penny. The bill would also allow redemption centers to simply provide notice to the DNR that they are opening for business.  Currently, facilities must be licensed by the agency. 

A second bill, introduced by House Environmental Protection Committee Chair Dean Fisher (R-Montour) is a pared-down version of HF 181.  His proposal, HSB 232, would double the handling fee for redemption centers from one cent per container to two cents.  As in the current bottle bill system, beer and soda distributors would take full responsibility for paying the fee.  Unlike HF 181, however, Fisher’s bill does not expand the five-cent deposit to water bottles, sports drinks, and other non-carbonated beverage containers.       

With legislative “funnel” looming, there is an increased sense of urgency to ensure bottle bill proposals remain in play.  Most legislation that hasn’t passed subcommittee and full committee in either the House or Senate by Friday, March 8 will be considered “dead” for the remainder of session.  Certain bills—which mostly deal with taxes, spending and government oversight—are exempt from this deadline.  Nearly all bottle bill proposals are subject to funnel.  But Feenstra’s bill, which is under consideration by the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, is immune from the deadline, and will stay alive for the rest of session.

New Bill Would Allow Retailers to Stop Redeeming Bottles and Cans

Bottle bill activity continued at the statehouse the sixth week of legislative session, with freshman Rep. Brian Lohse (R-Bondurant) introducing a measure that would allow retailers to refuse to redeem beverage containers. The bill, HF 412, would largely deregulate the deposit system.  Currently, a grocery store or other retailer can opt-out of accepting cans and bottles by directing consumers to a redemption center certified by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  Under Lohse’s bill, stores could simply give notice to the DNR that they will no longer redeem containers.

HF 412 would also deregulate the redemption center side of the system.  Right now, it’s illegal to open such a facility without DNR approval. Lohse’s bill would remove the licensing requirement, and allow owners to simply submit notice to the DNR that they are opening a redemption center. 

Complicating the picture, however, is that the distributor side of the system would remain unchanged.  Soda and beer distributors would continue paying redemption centers the same one-cent handling fee per container they pay now.  With licensing requirements repealed, businesspeople would open more redemption centers—and those facilities would compete for the same penny per can in their communities.  For smaller towns and rural regions, the fear is that glutting the marketplace could effectively wipe out can and bottle redemption options in those areas.

HF 412 was introduced Monday, and originally referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.  The next day, it moved to the House Environmental Protection Committee, which is also considering other bottle bill proposals.

Bottle Bill Expansion Measure Unanimously Passes Subcommittee

Bottle bill supporters scored an important victory Tuesday, with HF 181 passing subcommittee in the House.  The bill, introduced by Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa), would expand the five-cent deposit to many non-carbonated beverages, including plastic water bottles.  It would also double the handling fee for redemption centers to two cents per container.  The debate among attendees was intense, with the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA) offering the strongest protest.  Casey’s General Stores joined the IGIA in arguing that expanding the deposit would gobble up more square footage, which is already at a premium.  The Iowa Beverage Association opposed HF 181 on the grounds that the increased handling fee would harm soda distributors’ bottom lines.  The Iowa Association of Business and Industry also came out against the measure. 

The Iowa Wholesale Beer Distributors Association declared themselves “agnostic” on HF 181, saying they believed there was a better solution.  Doll Distributing, which handles primarily beer, along with some bottled water and liquor beverages, came out in opposition to the measure.  Doll said the company is working with the IGIA on a bill centered around their new, proprietary can and bottle redemption program.

Supporters of bottle bill expansion, however, far outnumbered the groups working against HF 181.  The Iowa Recycling Association spoke out in favor of the bill, along with Mid America Recycling President Mick Barry and Can Shed redemption center owner Troy Willard.  Ten other bottle bill coalition members, including the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the Iowa League of Women Voters, also voiced their support.

Rep. McKean, who chaired the subcommittee, voted to pass the legislation, as did Reps. Rob Bacon (R-Sioux City) and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).  The bill now moves to the full House Environmental Protection Committee for consideration.  HF 181 must pass committee before the March 8 “funnel” to stay alive for the remainder of the 2019 legislative session. 


Bottle Bill Expansion Will Get Subcommittee Hearing; Experts Testify for House and Senate Committees

Legislation to dramatically overhaul the Iowa bottle bill will get its first hearing in subcommittee Tuesday, February 12.  HF 181 would expand the five-cent can and bottle deposit to many non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage containers, including plastic water bottles.  It would also double the handling fee paid to redemption centers from one cent per container to two cents.  Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) introduced the bill, and will chair next week’s hearing.  Reps. Robert Bacon (R-Sioux City) and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) will round out the subcommittee.  At least two of those lawmakers must sign-off on the bill for it to advance to the full House Environmental Protection Committee for consideration.

Lawmakers demonstrated their interest in some sort of bottle bill reform this week, with key House and Senate committees hearing expert testimony on Thursday. Iowa State University economist Dr. Dermot Hayes said from an economic perspective, the bottle bill is “beautiful” because it’s market-based.  However, the system has a key flaw—the deposit and handling fee don’t automatically adjust with inflation.  If they did, Hayes said that today, the deposit would be 17 cents, and the handling fee three cents.  Now, he said, the system is failing.

Container Recycling Institute President Susan Collins also gave testimony.  She said bottle bills are so effective they’re “the rock stars of recycling.”  Pointing to 2015 statistics, she noted the recycling rate for PET plastic bottles with deposits was more than 63 percent nationwide.  Without a deposit, it was less than 18 percent. Meanwhile, the market for bottled water keeps expanding, creating further issues with plastic waste.  She also pointed out that of the states offering handling fees, Iowa’s is the lowest in the country.

This week Rep. Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa) also filed two new pieces of bottle bill legislation.  Taken together, they would essentially do the same thing as HF 181.  Individually, HF 198 would expand the deposit to plastic water bottles, sports drinks, and many other non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages.  HF 199 would increase the handling fee to two cents.

Rep. McKean Introduces Legislation to Expand Bottle Bill, Increase Handling Fee

Bottle bill issues gained steam the third week of the 2019 legislative session, with Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) introducing a bill that would overhaul the current system.  Under HF 181, the container handling fee would double to two cents per container, the first raise for redemption centers since the bottle bill was implemented in 1979.

The legislation would also dramatically expand the beverages subject to a five-cent deposit.   It would apply to most water bottles, as well as coffee and tea beverages regardless of their milk content.  (In some bottle bill states, these beverages fall under the exemption for dairy products.)  Drinks in jars and cartons would no longer require deposits, and foil pouches and drink boxes would also be exempt.  Other product categories that would be excluded from deposit requirements include milk, plant-based milks, liquid drugs, medical food, dietary supplements, baby formula, syrups, concentrates, drink powders, and cooking extracts.

Next week the bottle bill reform movement is expected to gain more momentum, with the House Environmental Protection Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee each holding hearings on the issue.  Iowa State University economist Dr. Dermot Hayes, an expert on the state’s deposit law, will offer testimony.  He will be joined by Susan Collins, President of the California-based Container Recycling Institute.  Collins has 30 years of experience in the recycling and waste management field, and has consulted with more than 80 public agencies on their programs. 

SF 59 Bottle Bill Measure Passes Subcommittee

The first bottle bill-related legislation filed this session, Senate File 59, passed subcommittee Wednesday on a 2-1 vote.  The bill would double the redemption center handling fee to two cents per container, while removing bottle and can redemption from retail stores.

Sen. Mark Segebart (R-Vail) sponsored the legislation and chaired the subcommittee.  As a strong bottle bill supporter, he said it was important to address the concerns of four constituencies:  grocery stores, redemption centers, bottlers, and consumers.  Sen. Segebart said the deposit system has “saved Iowa a lot of mess,” and noted he had once seen about 30 cans on the side of the road on the way to church.  By the time he returned home, all of the cans had been picked up.  He said that means the system is working, but it’s important to make a series of small adjustments, which are long overdue. 

Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) disagreed, and said that with the “flood” of plastic water bottles going into landfills and dumped on roadsides, the legislature should add deposits to non-carbonated, non-alcoholic plastic beverage containers.  She also proposed doubling the deposit to ten cents per container.  Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa), who chairs the chamber’s Natural Resources Committee, said he would be interested in looking at a separate bill dealing with plastics in the future. 

Ultimately, Senators Segebart and Rozenboom signed-off on SF 59, while Sen. Celsi remained opposed.  The measure now goes to the full Natural Resources Committee.

First 2019 Bottle Bill Legislation Introduced

This week, Senator Mark Segebart (R-Vail) filed the first legislation aimed at updating the bottle bill.  He sits on the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which handles most bottle bill-related measures.  A subcommittee meeting will be held to discuss this legislation, Senate File 59.  Sen. Segebart himself will chair the subcommittee.  Natural Resources Committee Chair Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa) and Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) will round out the subcommittee. 

SF 59 would remove retailers from the deposit system, thus requiring consumers to return their cans and bottles to redemption centers.  Beverage distributors would pick up the empty containers at least weekly.  Meanwhile, the handling fee distributors pay to redemption centers would be doubled from one cent to two cents per container.  Under this legislation, all redemption centers must be approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The bill would take effect on July 1, 2020.  Unapproved redemption centers would have to shut down operations by December 1, 2020.  

DMR: Iowa's bottle bill helps charities and working families

Sheri Cunningham, Iowa View contributor

I am a small business owner and operator of Pella Can and Bottle Redemption Center, and I have seen firsthand the positive impact that Iowa’s Beverage Container Redemption Law, commonly known as the “Bottle Bill,” has had in our state.

Many redemption centers provide fundraising opportunities for nonprofits and charitable organizations in their area. In my redemption center alone, we work with more than 40 different charitable and non-profit groups.

The bottle bill helped these organizations raise more than $65,000 through our redemption center. The Marion County Humane Society, for example, uses those funds to pay its electric bill, phone bill and water bill. Some of these organizations may shut off their lights if the bottle bill were repealed.

There are approximately 125 redemption centers in Iowa. The people who own and work at those centers rely on the bottle bill to support their families. I have owned and operated the Pella Redemption Center for 18 years, and I have seven employees who are working to support their family. My sister, a single mother, owns the redemption center in Chariton and provides many of the same fundraising and employment opportunities. Repealing the bottle bill would force me to close my doors and eliminate these jobs. 

The current bottle bill and proposals to modernize the bottle bill do not tax the consumer. Rather, it is a privately administered program run by the distributors, retailers and redemption centers. The State of Iowa does not collect a single penny. In addition, a recent, independent poll showed that more than 70% of Iowans favor some form of the bottle bill. Proposals to repeal the bottle bill would impose a fee and an excise tax to establish a $60 million fund that the State of Iowa would administer in the form of grants to cities and counties for the implementation of a new recycling program.

Grocery stores and opponents of the bottle bill complain about having the containers brought into stores because of sanitation reasons. What people don’t know is that the current law allows grocery stores to not take containers if they have an agreement with a redemption center to be their designated center. In many other states, the grocery stores, redemption centers and distributors have worked together on a comprehensive solution to take redemption out of the grocery stores and increase access to redemption through satellite locations that make it easier for the consumer. In addition, just this year, more than 40 legislators (both Democrats and Republicans) sponsored legislation, HF2155, to modernize the bottle bill, but the bill was not even allowed a subcommittee hearing to discuss these ideas. 

Rather than repealing the bottle bill, we should be looking for a comprehensive solution to address the recycling needs in our state. 

Sheri Cunningham is the owner and operator of Pella Can and Redemption Center in Pella. 



DMR: Bottle Bill is good for our state’s environment and economy

Mick Barry, Iowa View contributor

Former governors Terry Branstad and Robert Ray shared a vision nearly 40 years ago to implement Iowa’s Bottle Bill as a part of Iowa’s highly successful, integrated and multi-faceted recycling process.

Iowa’s Bottle Bill has thrived and continues to be overwhelmingly popular, with more than 70% of Iowans supporting the current law or expanding it.

As the president of Iowa’s largest recycling company, Mid America Recycling, I understand both sides of the argument concerning repeal and expansion of the current Bottle Bill. 

Myth: Bottle Bill programs are outdated and less efficient.

Fact: According to the Container Recycling Institute, states with container deposit laws have a beverage container recycling rate of around 60%, while non-deposit states reach only about 24%.  In comparison, Iowa’s redemption rate measured significantly higher at 71%.  This law keeps an estimated 1.65 billion containers out of Iowa’s landfills, ditches and waters each year. 

Myth: The Iowa Bottle Bill is a government-funded, government-run program. 

Fact: The Bottle Bill is operated entirely by private industry. The retailer pays a nickel to the distributor. The consumer pays a nickel to the retailer when they purchase the carbonated beverage. Then, when the consumer redeems the carbonated beverage, they are fully refunded the 5 cent deposit by the retailer or redemption center. The distributor then pays the retailer or redemption center a 1-cent handling fee for the carbonated beverage. The distributors then keep any excess money from unredeemed beverages that they do not pay out in handling fees. Curbside or single-stream programs are entirely government-run through government contracts with municipalities and counties. Additionally, proposals to repeal the bottle bill would impose a fee and an excise tax collected by the State to the tune of $60 million.

Myth: Iowa’s Bottle Bill can be replaced by curbside or single-stream recycling (all recyclable materials collected in one bin and picked up curbside or taken to a recycling center).

Fact: Bottle Bill opponents propose expanding single-stream recycling as a vehicle to replace the Bottle Bill.  While some municipalities have established single-stream recycling programs, most rural communities have not.  According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, roughly one-third of Iowa’s population does not have access to single-stream recycling. 

Myth: Curbside or single-stream recycling is a more efficient way of recycling bottles.

Fact: The biggest problem in single stream recycling is the cross contamination of plastic, cans, and glass when they are collected together.  The numbers do not lie – single stream recycling does a great job of collecting paper but it does not have the success rate for collecting containers. Rather, curbside or single-stream and the bottle bill complement each other in keeping Iowa clean and reducing recyclable material from ever entering the landfill. 

Myth: Iowa has the necessary infrastructure to handle glass recycling if the Bottle Bill were repealed.     

Fact: Most Iowa recycling companies, like Mid America Recycling, would bear the responsibility to recycle glass, which would require new machinery.  These additional costs would be forced upon Iowa cities and counties; costs that would ultimately fall to the taxpayers. 

Myth: Grocers are forced to redeem and collect cans and bottles.

Fact: The current Bottle Bill law states that grocers can choose to accept the deposit containers or have an agreement to have them redeemed at a local redemption center. However, retailers continue to accept the deposits for obvious business reasons; it brings customers into their stores. 

In short, the Bottle Bill is good for our state’s environment, economy, and it should not be repealed. Rather, we should be working together to improve and encourage recycling in our state. 

Mick Barry is the president of Mid America Recycling.

CRG: Once again, Iowa bottle bill debated and deferred

DES MOINES — Another legislative session. Another bottle bill debate. Another dead end.

Forty years after Iowa adopted a nickel deposit on carbonated beverage containers that is refunded when the cans and bottle are returned to retailers, grocers don’t like it, environmental groups love it and the debate whether to expand it or kill it continues at the Capitol.

For this year, however, the debate is over.

“This bill needs to start somewhere other than Ways and Means with people who are dedicated to this kind of subject matter."

- Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee


“House File 575 is going nowhere,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, said at the beginning of a hearing on the bill that was approved by the Environmental Protection Committee last year. “We’re convinced others have better ideas. We’re here to listen to better ideas.”

Most of the ideas presented in the 45-minute hearing sounded a lot like those offered in the past.

Brad Epperly, representing the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, called for repeal of the nickel deposit in favor of a broader waste recycling effort tied to curbside recycling. Bottle and can redemption rates have fallen from more 86 percent to 71 percent.

“They’re not in our ditches. They’re not in our garbage cans,” he said. “They’re in our recycling bins” because consumers would rather do that than take them back to the store. He pointed out that 83 percent of Iowa communities have curbside recycling available.

The proposal from the grocers and Iowa Beverage Association would not only eliminate the nickel deposit, but expand curbside recycling, removed container redemption at grocery stores, create a beverage industry-funded recycling effort and establish incentives for landfill diversion.

Legislation proposed by grocers and the Iowa Beverage Association called for a comprehensive recycling solution that addresses paper, cardboard, glass and plastic.

“Single-stream seems to be the silver bullet we’re all looking for,” countered Mick Barry, president of Mid America Recycling, “but right now that’s a lead bullet,” The market for single-stream recycling material is collapsing as China no longer it. His business is being offered a “negative $32” to deliver recyclable waste to mills that re-use it.

“Repeal of the bottle bill is a disaster waiting to happen,” Barry said.

Matt McKinney, speaking for the Iowa Recycling Association, warned that the proposal by the grocers and bottlers would shift container recycling from the private sector to the public sector where it would lead to bigger government and higher taxes.

Troy Willard said that plan would put his 21-year-old Can Shed redemption center in Cedar Rapids that handles 100 million container a year out of business. His and other redemption centers employ thousands of Iowans and he told the subcommittee they should be the solution for all beverage containers.

That also was Rep. Andy McKean’s message to the subcommittee. The Anamosa Republican is the lead sponsor of HF 2155 that would preserve the 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans containing alcoholic beverages and carbonated drinks, and it would also expand the list of covered containers to include teas, water, juice and sports drinks. Grocery stores would still be required to redeem beverage containers unless there is a redemption center within one mile of their locations.

The bottle bill and curbside recycling should not be mutually exclusive, he said. He recommended increasing the handling fee so redemption centers could be profitable and gradually expand the variety of containers covered by the bottle bill.

While Vander Linden declared the bill dead for the session, he concluded the hearing by predicting the discussion will continue. McKean’s bill represents one approach, he said.

“He’s got 42 players from both parties, so that’s not going to go away,” Vander Linden said, adding, “This bill needs to start somewhere other than Ways and Means with people who are dedicated to this kind of subject matter.”

Sioux City Journal: The Can Farm ready to serve Morningside

Read the full article here:

SIOUX CITY — The owners of The Can Farm know change is hard, but they think Morningside residents eventually will adapt to redeeming cans and bottles at their center, rather than local supermarkets.

Since Iowa enacted what’s commonly called bottle bill in 1978, most residents have redeemed their cans and bottles directly at a store that also sells pop and other beverages subject to the 5-cent per can deposit.

However, since March 1, that has no longer been an option for them. The Can Farm, 2801 Correctionville Road, has been designated as the certified redemption center for Walmart, Fareway and two other grocers in the Morningside/Sunnybrook area.

Read more here.

Bi-Partisan Legislation Introduced to Modernize Iowa’s Bottle Bill

DES MOINES – Today bi-partisan legislation to modernize and improve Iowa’s Bottle Bill was introduced by Representative Andy McKean (R-Anamosa), the Vice Chair of the House Environmental Protection committee. He was joined by a cosponsor of the legislation, Representative Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque), Ranking member of the Environmental Protection committee, and Troy Willard of the Can Shed Redemption center in Cedar Rapids. In addition, 40 cosponsors have signed on to this legislation, with broad support from both Republicans and Democrats.  

Since 1978, Iowa’s Bottle Bill has thrived and continues to be overwhelmingly popular.  Iowans are familiar with this law; they know it works and they like it. This legislation will bring the Iowa Bottle Bill into the 21st century by modernizing the 5 cent deposit to include water, juice, and sports drink bottles. Most of these containers are not being recycled despite single-stream access and thus it is important the bottle bill be modernized to reflect today’s consumer behaviors. 

The legislation also increases the handling fee for retailers and redemption centers from 1 cent to 2 cents. This rate has remained unchanged since the bottle bill program began 40 years ago. This will increase access to recycling for Iowans living in rural and urban areas alike.

"I'm very pleased that 40 State Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, joined me in sponsoring this legislation,” said State Representative Andy McKean.  “I think it is compelling evidence of the strong public support to keep and expand the Bottle Bill that's been good for both the environment and economic development."

“More Iowans are becoming interested in comprehensive materials management policies and programs. The goal of reducing, reusing, recycling and rethinking our consumption of natural resources is a noble one worthy of concerted legislative attention. To the extent that revisiting Iowa's beverage container redemption law may be involved, we should first consider modernizing that system to reflect the evolution in consumer tastes, changes in product packaging and the economics of recycling,” said State Representative Isenhart, “I am pleased to join Rep. McKean to jump-start that conversation in a non-partisan way.”

“Since starting my business 20 years ago, I have seen the bottle bill save billions of cans, plastic and glass bottles from ending up in the landfill,” said Troy Willard, “This legislation will modernize Iowa’s  bottle bill program, increasing access to recycling and allowing more opportunities for consumers and businesses to participate in keeping Iowa clean.”

Modernize Iowa's bottle deposit law


Troy Willard, guest columnist

There is a reason three times as many water bottles are being landfilled in Iowa as compared to bottle-deposit containers (soda and beer): because curbside recycling does a poor job recovering beverage containers, especially as compared to Iowa’s highly-efficient bottle bill.

Also disturbing is the trend that non-deposit containers (water and sports drinks) are being landfilled — despite increasing curbside availability — at twice the rate in the last 6 years. Without a financial incentive to return these containers, people tend to throw them away, especially a container designed to be consumed “on the go.”

Curbside recycling works well for residents in densely populated areas and for non-container materials (paper, cardboard, etc.). This is one of many reasons the two programs — curbside and the bottle bill — complement each other and provide a more comprehensive approach to recycling than just one of them.

Nationally, curbside programs only recover about a third of the beverage containers that are actually recycled under Iowa’s bottle bill, the rest end up either in landfills or ditches.

Repealing the bottle bill is clearly not an answer if the question is how can we improve recycling in Iowa.

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association and Iowa Beverage Association would like nothing more than to wash their hands of any responsibility for the recovery and recycling of containers they profit from.

The $60 million dollars they seek to raise through a “fee” is a drop in the bucket for what it would take to expand and maintain a system statewide that only will recover a third of the containers our bottle bill successfully does.

Once that tax money is gone, the cost will fall on cities and counties; a cost that will ultimately be put on taxpayers. On top of that, the litter tax element of their plan falls woefully short of covering the actual cost it will take to clean up the inevitable problem that will result.

The common theme throughout recent polls is a majority of Iowans like the bottle bill and want to see it modernized.

When looking at ways to help redemption centers survive and appease grocers, the first thing that needs to be addressed is the 40-year-old, 1-cent handling fee.

A much-overdue increase in the handling fee would help entice people to open new redemption centers.

With more redemption centers, more Iowans would gravitate toward them as an alternative to grocery stores as a point of redemption and give grocery stores the opportunity to designate and opt out of redemption altogether.

Also, update the definition of “beverage” to reflect our modern marketplace by including non-carbonated drink containers (often the same container as their carbonated counterparts) so they are recycled and don’t end up in our landfills.

What can make recycling in Iowa more successful, convenient and modern?

We should take our lead from states with similar legislation that have updated their bottle bills to keep pace with inflation and beverage industry trends. This will reinvigorate redemption businesses and make investments into redemption technology possible.

In turn, this will make the customer experience better and easier, relieve grocers from being the focal point of redemption and double recycling of containers nearly overnight.

• Troy Willard is CEO of the Can Shed in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City


The Can Shed - By the Numbers

The Can Shed has served the needs of consumers, retailers, and distributors of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor for over 20 years.  We have walk-in locations in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City which facilitate the process of collecting and recycling beverage containers.  Collectively, the two facilities see between 300 and 400 customers daily resulting in over 100 million containers recycled annually.  Additionally, we haul and process recovered deposit material from numerous distributors across eastern Iowa.  We processed over 12.5 million pounds of material for recycling last year alone. 

In addition to contributing to the environmental well-being of our state, the Can Shed takes great pride in supporting fantastic community organizations.  Groups like Habitat for Humanity, Project Aware, and other school, church, and sports groups depend on can redemption to fund activities.  The Can Shed distributed over $67,000 last year to these charitable organizations.  Without that money, many of those groups’ activities would not have been possible.

The bottle bill was signed into law in 1978 with the goal of improving recycling in Iowa.  It has accomplished that goal and has even helped Iowa become a top five recycling state in the country.  Repealing the bottle bill would be a terrible mistake for Iowa.  Not only would more than 40 Can Shed employees be without a job, but Iowa’s can recycling numbers would drop dramatically resulting in a spike in litter.  The bottle bill is good for the environment, it is good for Iowa, and it needs to stay!

Troy Willard

New Bottle Bill Polling Results Released

On March 9th, 2017, supporters of Iowa’s existing bottle bill flocked to the Iowa Capitol for a press conference releasing exciting new bottle bill polling results.  The poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer, reaffirmed overwhelming support of Iowa’s bottle bill still exists today.  Nearly nine in ten (88%) active Iowa voters say the bottle bill has been good for the state.  “The bottle bill is popular, and most Iowa voters do not want to see it repealed.  If anything, they are open to the idea of including more types of beverage containers under the law – requiring a deposit for water and sport drink bottles and cans which would be eligible for redemption,” explained Selzer. 

The recent poll further shows nearly four in five support keeping the law in some form (77%); twice the respondents supported expanding the bottle bill (40%) than for repeal (20%).  Representative Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) concurs, “I was first elected to represent Jones County in the Iowa House in 1979 when the bottle bill first took effect.  I witnessed the immediate positive impact of the bill and would like to see it expanded and enhanced as part of a comprehensive statewide recycling program.”

Poll results can be found here:

About the Poll:

Between February 23rd and 26th , 2017, Selzer & Company conducted a poll of 700 active registered voters in the state of Iowa, with the purpose of assessing Iowa voters’ support for or opposition to the bottle bill, which governs deposits and redemptions for certain cans and bottles. A random sample was drawn from active records in the Iowa voter registration list. Responses were weighted by age, sex, and congressional district to match the proportions found in all active voter registration records in Iowa.

News coverage:

The Cedar Rapids Gazette – 3/9/17

Poll: Iowans strongly favor deposit law – Rod Boshart


Des Moines Register – 3/9/17

Ending Iowa’s bottle return law would spur roadside litter, say critics – Bill Petroski


KGAN – 3/9/17

Poll shows “almost universal support” for Iowa’s Bottle Bill – Steffi Lee