Republicans on an Iowa Senate committee have approved making changes in Iowa’s Bottle Bill — tripling the amount of deposit fees that go to redemption centers that accept empties and pay back the nickel deposits on cans and bottles. Democrats say the entire package of changes will crush the Bottle Bill.
Republican Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig said it’s time to stop waiting for grocers and beverage distributors to come up with a compromise.
“Iowans, I think, are increasingly and justifiably enraged that we’ve let this go this far,” Schultz said.
If the bill becomes law, redemption centers will get three out of every five cent deposit fee. Schultz said that should allow them “to expand and multiply.” Beverage distributors would maintain an already existing system of mobile trailers that accept empties and the state’s beer excise tax would be reduced next year. Finally, the bill says grocery stores could quit taking back cans and bottles in 2023.
“This is a very real move to reinvigorate and modernize Iowa’s decades old Bottle Bill,” Schultz said. “Every poll shows, every forum that I go to shows…and my own family shows that they want to have it. Iowans love the Bottle Bill.”
A survey conducted last month found the 44-year-old Bottle Bill remains popular with 84% of eligible Iowa voters. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said it’s been one of the most popular laws on the books for years.
“This bill, the way it is written, is the de facto end of the Bottle Bill,” Dotzler said. “…You’re not going to be able to find a place to get rid of your bottles and cans.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said that’s already happened, with no consequences to retailers.
“The Bottle Bill’s on life support and it’s on life support because Hy-Vee and Fareway and convenience store chains have quit taking the containers that consumers buy,” Bolkcom said.
Schultz said while there could be some tweaks, his overall reform plan is the only viable option that can win votes in the Senate and the House.
“This is the opportunity to make the Bottle Bill live for another 10 years,” Schultz said. “It’s the only way to look at it. It’s hard to imagine any other way you could look at this situation.”
The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now eligible for debate in the full Senate.