pop cansState officials are fielding complaints from Iowans who say they can’t get the five-cent deposit back on their empty cans and bottles.

Stores that sell beverages in containers that are subject to the deposit law must accept the empties and pay back the deposit — or send customers to a local redemption center. But redemption centers are cutting back hours and some have closed.

Bill Blum of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says stores can’t tell customers “no” if there’s no redemption center to take their cans and bottles.

“That’s where local law enforcement is supposed to come in,” Blum says. “That kind of violation is a simple misdemeanor, a minimum $65 fine for every violation.”

But Blum says police tell him they’re reluctant to file charges in these cases.

“If you don’t want to cite these stores, at least go and talk to them and get them straight on the law so people can get their money back,” Blum says.

An interim statehouse committee is studying possible changes to Iowa’s “bottle bill” which went into effect in 1979. Retailers complain the empty cans and bottles are a health hazard in their stores. Redemption centers complain that the penny-per-container handling fee hasn’t been raised in 36 years.

Iowa is one of 10 states that have a “bottle bill” that calls for refundable deposits on cans and bottles. State officials say 86 percent of cans and bottles in Iowa are recycled as a result.

(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)