Guest Columnist

Bottle bill helps our community

Glass bottles move through the system at The Can Shed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Glass bottles move through the system at The Can Shed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

I live and work in Monticello and I have been fortunate enough to witness the good the bottle bill does for our community. I work as a community employment specialist for a business that serves individuals with disabilities and operates a can redemption center, Advancement Services of Jones County. The bottle bill allows us to employ workers through our Organizational Employment Services, which provide good jobs to individuals with disabilities. These employees run the redemption center and are vital to the operations of Advancement Services of Jones County. We provide redemption services for Jones County and surrounding communities that contract with us for their recycling and redemption needs. In the past year alone, Advancement Services has redeemed over 12 million containers that otherwise would have ended up in our landfill or ditches. The bottle bill allows us to employ great people while at the same time help keep Iowa clean.

If the bottle bill were repealed, the employees at Advancement Services may lose their jobs. By keeping Iowa’s bottle bill and modernizing it, we could continue to employ individuals who may not otherwise be given an opportunity to work. Our employees are proud of the work they do and the part they play in our recycling process and keeping Iowa clean. They can’t wait for our driver to come back each day and find out how much was collected.

We are not alone, there are more than 900 people working across the state of Iowa in redemption centers. Modernizing the bill could create even more jobs and increase access to recycling and redemption centers for Iowans across the state. Keeping Iowa’s bottle bill is good for our economy and this land we love so much and call home.

I recently traveled to Texas for spring break to visit family. We passed through Missouri and Oklahoma on our way to Texas—all states without bottle deposit laws. As we drove through these states, I was shocked to see the number of cans, bottles, and trash thrown out into the roadside ditches. It made me thankful for the clean roadside ditches in Iowa and appreciate that our leaders, including former Gov. Bob Ray and former Gov. Terry Branstad, had the vision and common sense to enact the bottle bill back in 1978.

I encourage you to reach out to your local representatives and senators and ask them to support keeping and expanding the bottle bill. I reached out to Rep. Andy McKean and he said my encouragement will help spur him on. “Tell your clients that I haven’t given up and we’ll keep working to get an expanded bottle bill passed,” he said. To read those words is incredibly meaningful to me and to those whom I work with. Repealing the bottle bill would take us backwards from how far we came in recycling in our state. When aluminum cans are redeemed, they are then recycled into new aluminum cans, rain gutters, and window frames. Glass bottles are recycled into new bottles. Plastics can be recycled into polyester fleece or carpeting. These are things we may not think about or even know about, but it all helps to save our planet. Let’s work together on how we can improve recycling across our state.

• Jeanne Hendricks of Monticello is a community employment specialist at Advancement Service of Jones County.

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