A small group of legislators, with the blessing of their leaders, has begun considering changes in Iowa’s “Bottle Bill.”

Empty cans and bottles drained of their pop or beer can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit in Iowa, but grocers complain about being forced to accept the empties in their stores. Others say putting especially the aluminum cans in curb-side bins would make recycling efforts more profitable.

Representative Dave Deyoe, a Republican from Nevada, is on a three-member House panel that began examining the issues Thursday. “It’s going to be a long process,” Deyoe says. “This bill is not going to be racing through the House by next week.”

Legislation introduced in the Iowa Senate outlines some of the same changes being proposed in the House bill. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says when the so-called “bottle bill” was enacted in 1978, its primary focus was litter control.

“When the original legislation was passed, 78 percent of all beverages were sold in returnable, refillable bottles,” Gronstal says. “…So this was about keeping items out of the ditch.”

Gronstal says the shift now is to conservation since glass, plastic and aluminum containers are now recycled rather than reused. “And the question is how can you best promote recycling and less stuff going into the landfills?” Gronstal says. “So I think it’s a good discussion to have. I don’t know that anybody’s got a ‘silver bullet’ or a magic solution to the challenges of that, but I commend people for being willing to bring it up and have a discussion about it.”

Speaker Kraig Paulsen, the top Republican in the House, echoes Gronstal’s sentiments and he, too, is pessimistic about finding that “silver bullet” that could win approval in the House and Senate. “I’m not under any illusion that that’s a bill that winds up on the governor’s desk this year, but I think it’s a discussion that needs to take place,” Paulsen says. “…The ‘Bottle Bill’ has clearly served the state extremely well, but I mean no one even contemplated curb-side recycling at that point in time.”

Legislators often have contemplated changes in the state’s popular “Bottle Bill” over the past two decades, but proposals to completely get rid of it, or to expand the number of drink containers subject to the deposit or even to raise the deposit fee have all failed.