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Myth: Bottle Bill programs are outdated and less efficient.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.