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 Some of these organizations may shut off their lights if the bottle bill were repealed.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.