Backers of the state’s bottle and can deposit law are urging legislators to force grocery stores to accept the empty bottles and cans from beverages they sell. Iowa Recycling Association executive director Dewayne Johnson says after legislators adjourn for the year, he believes grocery stores will start asking for permission to quit accepting cans and bottles for the nickel deposit.”Iowa’s bottle and can deposit law could be a thing of the past unless legislators take action in the next few weeks,” Johnson says. Former Governor Terry Branstad today (Tuesday) joined Johnson in urging legislators to act to bolster the “bottle bill.” “I think that most Iowans would tell you that if a store sells a can or bottle, they want to take that can or bottle back to that store,” Branstad says. “The real genius of the bottle bill has been its convenience to the consumer.” But the nickel deposit law does not require stores to redeem the empties of beverages they sell. It allows stores to opt out if there’s a recycling center nearby. Branstad says it’s time to get rid of that “opt out” clause.”I think a lot of people are not aware of what could happen if we indeed see what has happened at a few retail locations happen all across the state,” Branstad says. State officials have granted waivers to about one-hundred grocery stores so they no longer accept empties since there’s a redemption center nearby. Branstad warns there’ll be even more requests after legislators leave if lawmakers don’t get tough and force retailers to pay the nickel back on bottles and cans they sell. Branstad calls the bottle bill an “old friend” that is being taken for granted. “This is something that’s just been part of our conservation ethic in Iowa over a long period of time,” Branstad says. “I think it’s especially important for our state leaders now to take action to protect this old friend and to maintain its benefits.” Mick Barry, a regional spokesman for the recycling industry, says the Iowa Recycling Association is launching a radio ad campaign, urging Iowans to pressure lawmakers on the issue. “Iowa’s deposit law is under assault at this time, yet because so many other issues have captured the spotlight, most Iowans don’t know of the continued threat to the viability of the bottle and can deposit law,” Barry says. Johnson, of the Recycling Association, warns that redemption centers aren’t a good alternative to grocery stores because redemption centers keep limited hours. “If convenience is eroded…there’s going to be no place to take your cans and bottles back — no place convenient,” Johnson says. Iowa Grocery Industry Association executive director Jerry Fleagle doubts grocers are waiting ’til legislators go home to ask for waivers from the recycling law. Fleagle says he doesn’t know what would trigger such a reaction. He says grocers have been abiding by the law for the past 26 years, and haven’t asked for changes this year. “I think on the other hand, it has really been the Iowa Recycling Association that has been advocating for changes and we have not advocated for any. We have not introduced any bills. We haven’t worked with legislators to introduce any changes,” Fleagle says. Yet Fleagle does say grocers want to keep the empties out of their stores. “Grocery stores..continue to be concerned about the sanitation problem with bringing trash back into the grocery stores…and I think more and more Iowans…recognize that,” Fleagle says.
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