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Iowa grocers work to change 5-cent bottle deposit law

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 9:59 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES — Iowa grocers are pushing to change the state’s bottle deposit law in hopes of shifting the recycling effort out of their businesses.

The 1978 law requires consumers to pay a five-cent deposit when purchasing beverage containers. Consumers are refunded the deposit when they return the container to a store or redemption center.

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association is working to replace the law with an expanded statewide recycling and litter control program.

Association President Michelle Hurd said grocers no longer want to handle unsanitary cans and bottles.

Opponents of the law repeal fear that litter would increase. Hurd said repeal legislation would still address litter and recycling.

The state recycles about 86 percent of its beverage containers, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Rep. Andy McKean, R-Anamosa, said he supports legislation that would improve and expand the bill but eliminate the redemption requirement for grocers. McKean said he wants to increase deposit and handling fees, add additional beverage containers to the program and encourage residents to use local redemption centers.

“This would assist our struggling redemption centers and encourage the opening of additional centers,” McKean said. “It would be a positive step for the environment, economic development, and would make it possible to remove cans and bottles from Iowa grocery stores.”

At least one lawmaker is expressing doubt over the repeal plan after hearing from Iowa residents.

“I think repealing the bottle bill would be extremely difficult,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton. “When the repeal was floated last session, I heard from constituents en masse that they would be opposed to it.”

The Legislature will consider a bill to replace the current bottle deposit program with a broader recycling and litter reduction program when it convenes in January.

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