Iowa legislators consider bottle bill repeal

Credit: Zen Sutherland, Flickr.

Has Iowa’s 33-year old “bottle bill” run its course?

That’s what a group of House legislators say. They want to repeal the law that requires vendors to place a 5-cent deposit on all cans and bottles sold in the state that contain alcohol and soft drinks.

Grocers have long argued that the law is overly burdensome and that the transfer of messy containers presents a health risk.

But the bottle bill has been credited with reducing levels of litter in public places – especially in highway ditches. After the bill’s passage, a 1980 litter survey found that beverage container litter in Iowa decreased 77 percent, and overall litter fell by 37 percent.

Also, recycling rates in bottle bill states are drastically higher than they are elsewhere.

In 2006 only 33 percent of containers were recycled nationwide. That number was between 65 and 95 percent in states with deposit laws, according to a study by the Iowa Policy Project. Iowans recycled 91 percent of deposited containers, and Michiganders – the lone residents who pay a 10 cent deposit – recycled 95 percent of containers.

Many have lobbied to expand the scope of the requirement to include non-carbonate and non-alcoholic beverages, which made up 25 percent of the beverage market in 2005. Others have argued that the deposit should be increased to account for inflation.

But Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcottep thinks that Iowans have out grown the system.

Earlier this month, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported:

Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, said the bill likely will be moved to the full Environmental Protection Committee next week. The deposit, which is returned to consumers who redeem their cans and bottles, is no longer necessary, he said.

“With the recycling programs we have, we are way ahead of where we were when the bill was passed,” said Paustian, who chaired a subcommittee meeting on the proposal. “We had nothing then.”

On Saturday a (Mason City) Globe Gazette editorial argued that Iowa should stick with the bottle bill until it finds a better way to reduce litter.

What do you think?

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