It appears Governor Chet Culver may accept a compromise plan that would expand the number of drink containers that’re subject to the state’s nickel deposit fee, but would not increase the fee to ten cents. Culver a week ago proposed a nickel increase in the deposit fee, plus a move to include more beverage containers in the state’s so-called "bottle bill."
"Iowans that I’ve talked to support expanding the bottle bill and including bottles and cans that are, like water bottles, that aren’t covered," Culver says. "…They want to get bottles and cans out of ditches and out of landfills and so they share that goal."
Grocers are balking at the idea of accepting more bottle returns for deposit and key legislators have suggested doubling the deposit fee is a "tough" sell. Culver says he’s ready to work with legislators on the mechanics of getting more bottles and cans into the recycling stream by charging a deposit fee that Iowans will return those containers to redeem. "You know, whatever we have to do to expand the bottle bill — after 30 years, we’ve never added any container to the law so we have 330 million containers annually in Iowa…that aren’t covered," Culver says. "People drink a lot of water, consume a lot of juice and so I’m saying let’s do what’s easy. Let’s expand it."
But part of the reason Culver recommended doubling the deposit fee was to generate more money for redemption centers, and to find a new source of money for the state’s premiere environmental program. "In terms of the redemption center and the recyclers and the grocers, let’s work with them on what makes the most sense," Culver says. "…It’s a proposal. It’s an idea. I have a few of those, but I need the legislature and the people of Iowa to get behind them if we want to get it done and I expect we will, ultimately, accomplish this worthy goal."
Culver told reporters this morning that he’s willing to accept "whatever it takes" to get this issue resolved as soon as possible. Culver estimated that by raising the deposit fee to a nickel, there would be enough money to plug about $20 million into the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program. That is more than has ever been spent on the program in a single year. Last year, lawmakers and the governor set aside $15 million for it.