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  With licensing requirements repealed, businesspeople would open more redemption centers—and those facilities would compete for the same penny per can in their communities.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.