Bottle bill change will aid recycling, jobs

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By Angi Lawson


If you were to ask most Iowans what the Iowa bottle bill is about, they would probably answer: It’s about bottles, cans and nickels.

Yet, for Unlimited Services Inc., based in Manchester and Guttenberg, and our 45 individuals with varying disabilities, it’s not only a steady job but an incredibly valuable opportunity to learn and practice skills in a real work environment.

Can Do Redemption Center, under the direction of Unlimited Services Inc. opened in 2004 after we responded to a request from the Delaware County Board of Supervisors to provide vocational services to individuals who were looking for more than sheltered work experiences. Currently, individuals with various disabilities run the redemption center business with support from trainers. Wages paid to the trainees consume 79 percent of the income from the 1 cent per container processing fee that is paid to us from the container distributors. The remainder of our budget goes toward the conveyor belt system, safety equipment, cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous expenses.

Nearly 35 years ago, the Legislature passed and Gov. Robert Ray signed the deposit law on cans and bottles containing carbonated and alcoholic beverages. The law has since made Iowa a nationally renowned leader in recycling, saved tens of millions of containers from entering our landfills, waterways and ditches and helped create hundreds of good Iowa jobs.

Yet, in the years since the law was enacted, our technology has improved and our lifestyles have evolved. Water, sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverages are now on the market, yet their containers do not include the nickel deposit. As a result, those bottles are entering our landfills, ditches and waterways at nearly three times the rate of their bottle bill counterparts and we are losing out on precious jobs, valuable container materials and a healthier environment.

The Iowa “Better Bottle Bill” is before the Iowa Legislature. If passed, the modernized law would add the 5-cent deposit to bottles and cans containing water and other non-carbonated beverages. The increased volume would add valuable income to our center and help more individuals with disabilities. The handling fee paid to redemption centers from the container distributors for the added bottles would double to 2 cents.

Last year alone, Can Do Redemption Center processed

8 million cans and bottles. There is a need for recycling in our area and an even greater need for employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities who for various reasons do not have or are not ready for that community job. The good news is that a modernized Iowa bottle bill can help us accomplish both.

Please check out www. to learn more and join the movement.

l Angi Lawson is director of community relations and manager of Can Do Redemption Center-Unlimited Services Inc. in Guttenberg. Comments:

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