Bottle Deposit Law Supporters Say Iowans Are On Their Side

Mar 9, 2017

Supporters of Iowa’s bottle deposit law say an overwhelming majority of Iowans think the law is good for the state, and regularly return bottles and cans.  They released results of a poll conducted by Selzer & Company, suggesting 88-percent of people in the state think the law is good.  It also found about three-quarters of respondents saying they regularly return cans and bottles to get their deposits back, or give the empties to someone else to redeem.

Ann Selzer of Selzer & Company discusses results of a poll on Iowa's bottle deposit law.
Credit Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa’s grocery industry is backing a bill in the legislature to repeal the 39-year-old deposit law, and replace it with a larger recycling and trash reduction program.

Troy Willard is among those who says the current law is working.  He owns the Can Shed redemption center in Cedar Rapids, which he says handles about 100 million containers annually.  He says many groups use the bottle law to raise money.

“We work with American Legions, schools different athletic groups, Habitat for Humanity,” Willard says.  “Last year we raised more than $67,000 because of the bottle bill for those groups.”

Mick Barry, president of Mid America Recycling in Des Moines, says any plan to repeal the deposit law and make cans and bottles a larger part of the state’s recycling stream would come with a hefty price tag for adding processing equipment, and the extra work involved in separating cans and bottles from paper and plastic recyclables. He estimates it would come to about $10 million at his facility.

“The citizens of the state will incur increased costs for their recycling at home,” he says.  “That’s common sense logic.  The facilities are built around the system we have had since 1978 where the majority of containers are removed.”

Bottle law supporters say a poll they commissioned found Iowans support the current law. The state's grocery industry wants to repeal it, calling it a burden on stores that accept bottles for redemption.
Credit Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa’s grocery industry says the current law puts too much of a burden on its members who have to handle returned bottles.  The Des Moines Register recently quoted Brad Epperly, a lobbyist for the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, as saying the law’s supporters just want to keep the status quo.

"And what the status quo is, it brings garbage into our grocery stores,” the Register quoted him as saying. “And you know what, grocers have made investments too, folks — in machines, in people, in square footage that they can’t use to generate revenue."

A proposal to repeal the deposit law last week passed a House committee.