Proposal would expand Iowa's bottle deposit law

Energy drinks, bottled waters, flavored teas would be included under bill

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Proponents of expanding Iowa’s bottle bill law are going to make another run at bringing more beverage containers under the nickel deposit requirement.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, has scheduled a Senate subcommittee meeting Tuesday on a proposal to bring sports energy drinks, water products and flavored teas under the state’s beverage container control law that currently applies to soda, beer, alcoholic beverage and selected other containers.

The newly regulated beverages covered by Senate Study Bill 3188 include any non-alcoholic, carbonated and non-carbonated drink -- excluding fruit and vegetable juices, fruit drinks, and grade “A” milk and milk products. It also includes a list of other exceptions to the newly regulated beverages, and it limits the type of bottles, cans, jars, and cartons that are included under the definition for the term beverage container.

“The proposal is to expand the bottle bill to go after some of the new containers,” Bolkcom said. He acknowledged that “there’s still some opposition to the bill,” but he hoped a discussion by a three-member subcommittee might reveal new information about how the program currently is working and provide a discussion regarding what middle ground might be found in addressing ongoing issues that have cropped up since the deposit law was enacted in April 1978.

However, even before the Senate panel could begin its discussions, Gov. Terry Branstad told reporters Monday he did not think there was support for expanding the state's 1978 bottle law – one of 10 such state anti-litter statutes.

“I believe we do have an effective law which has led to substantial higher recycling of cans and bottles,” said Branstad, who noted that he picks up cans when he goes for walks near his Boone County residence. “I don’t think there’s support for expanding it at this point in time.”

Under Iowa’s law, consumers are required to pay a nickel deposit on bottles and cans for all carbonated and alcoholic beverages. They get the deposit back when the empty containers are returned to a redemption center, grocery store or other covered retail establishment.

The reimbursement amount, commonly referred to as a handling fee, is paid by the distributor who collects the beverage containers from the dealer or person operating a redemption center. Currently, the reimbursement amount is 1 cent per container, but Senate Study Bill 3188 requires distributors to pay an additional 1 cent for each collected beverage container that is made of plastic.

The bill appropriates moneys from the state’s general fund to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for purposes of administering the code section relating to the beverage container control law – a provision which make the measure exempt from the Legislature’s “funnel” deadlines that apply to regular bills but not those with a tax or budget impact.

A similar measure in the House failed to clear the first self-imposed legislative “funnel” deadline, and Sen. Hubert Houser, R-Carson, a member of the Senate subcommittee, said he was uncertain of the issue’s outlook in the Senate.

“All I know is I’ve been here 20 years and that thing’s been up a number of times and it never went anywhere,” he said of proposed bottle bill changes.

The Senate bill is opposed by at least nine organizations that include the Iowa Retail Federation, the Iowa Wholesale Beer Distributors Association, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, Hy-Vee Inc., the Iowa Beverages Association and the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa. Favoring the bill are a nearly equal number of proponents that include the Iowa Recycling Association, the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club, the Iowa League of Women Voters, the Iowa Public Interest Research Group, the Iowa State Association of Counties, and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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