Governor Chet Culver went before an unfriendly audience this morning to restate his goal of placing more drink containers under Iowa’s 30-year-old bottle deposit law. Culver has called for water bottles as well as containers for tea, lemonade and sports drinks to be subject to the deposit law. Culver repeated that message today as he spoke with about 300 Iowa grocers who oppose the move.
"Quite simply, I think it’s the right thing to do," Culver said. "If left unchanged these bottles will continue to fill up our landfills and clog up our ditches and they will be there long after any of us are gone." In early January, Culver suggested doubling the bottle deposit from a nickel to a dime, expanding it to cover more drink containers and then having the state use most of the extra money that’d be raised on environmental programs.
Earlier this month, though, Culver backed away from that and said the state wouldn’t lay claim to that bottle and can deposit money. During his speech to the Iowa Grocery Industry Association’s conference in Des Moines today, Culver repeated his call for compromise on the issue.
"Let’s commit ourselves to working together to come up with some solutions so today I’m challenging you to stay involved and to be a part of the discussion in the future," Culver said. "Let’s try to work together on this issue and in doing so I think we can try to find some common ground."
Grocers argue their stores are already dealing with messy empties and adding more bottles and cans to the mix would overrun their businesses, requiring more space and employees to deal with the mounds of returns.
"I want to make it clear that I’m committed to working with this group and others to try to find some common ground. I’ve learned it’s O.K. to be flexible when it comes to shaping public policy," Culver said today. "For example, I have listened to the people of Iowa…they’ve made it pretty clear that when we expand the bottle bill, they expect their full deposit back whether it’s a nickel or a dime and I agree with them."
According to Culver, there are some things about which all Iowans agree when it comes to the bottle bill and the way it has helped reduce litter in Iowa. "We can all agree we should keep our ditches, sidewalks, roads and landfills free of cans and bottles," Culver said. "We can all agree that it’s not O.K. to pollute the land that we love." According to Culver, Iowans will throw over 300 million drink containers in the garbage this year — bottles he argues would be recycled if a nickel or dime deposit fee were charged and then redeemed by the consumer.