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.