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.