Legislature

Iowa lawmakers debate possible bottle bill changes

Measures to repeal, expand bill both up for discussion

Students (from left) Jasmine Mallory, Cam’ Ron Wells, Jacob Vanderhorn and Ja’ Mario Heil put recyclable bottles and cans into a plastic bag as they collect fundraising items from classrooms at Hoover Elementary School in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Students (from left) Jasmine Mallory, Cam’ Ron Wells, Jacob Vanderhorn and Ja’ Mario Heil put recyclable bottles and cans into a plastic bag as they collect fundraising items from classrooms at Hoover Elementary School in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa’s bottle bill has been an issue since she was 3 years old, but Rep. Megan Jones, R-Spencer, thinks the discussion is “ramping up” this session.

Wednesday, after hearing from interest groups on four proposed bills, Jones, who chairs the House Environmental Protection Committee, encouraged the parties to continue the discussion.

“Let’s not drop the ball on this,” she said after a subcommittee heard comments on bills that ranged from repealing the 37-year-old anti-litter legislation to expanding it to include water and sports drink containers, and increasing the deposit from a nickel to a dime.

Bottle bill proposals are a regular feature of Iowa legislative sessions. That’s part of Jones’ frustrations. In addition to proposals each year, she said, there have been five interim study committees over the years.

“Clear Iowans growing frustrated with recycling,” she said. “But because it is so important, we need to continue discussion.”

The comments were typical of subcommittee hearings on bottle bill changes that come before the Legislature nearly every year. Grocers and convenience store operators oppose the deposit increase. Scott Sundstrom, representing the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, referred to the current system as “expensive and inefficient.”

Recyclers and redemption centers say the bill is needed to continue operation.

“We’re at a critical point of being able to operate profitably,” said Troy Willard of the Can Shed in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

“We need a consensus,” Jones said. “Most folks don’t want to see this to be repealed.”

The issues is tied closely to recycling, especially in rural areas, Jones said. In her 3.5-county legislative district, there is one redemption center. In much of Iowa, no curbside — or single-stream — recycling is available.

The subcommittee neither discussed the bills nor took action to move then to the full committee. However, Jones encouraged the interested parties to continue the discussion, whether on a formal or informal basis.

Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, who attended the meeting, was skeptical that approach will work.

The bills under consideration are:

-- House Study Bill 507: raise the deposit from 5 cents to 10.

-- House Study Bill 508: relieve retailers from redeeming containers. Consumers would redeem cans and bottles at redemption centers.

-- House Study Bill 509: include containers for water, juice and sports drinks.

-- House Study Bill 510: repeal bottle bill.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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