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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — That Iowa’s 5-cent deposit recycling law needs changes has bipartisan agreement among state lawmakers.
There is much less agreement on the potential impact of a proposal from Iowa Senate Republicans: They say their plan would breathe new life into the recycling program, while Senate Democrats say the plan would strangle the program to death.
The Senate Republican plan would triple the fee paid to redemption centers in the hopes of encouraging more to open, as more and more grocery stores opt out of the program as a place to accept returned bottles and cans.
“I think if you triple the amount of money that goes into a certain sector, whether it’s cotton candy or a gun shop or a luxury car dealership, you’re going to get more of them,” Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said Tuesday during Senate floor debate at the Iowa Capitol. “I think if we add more money to the redemption centers, we’re going to get more redemption centers.”
The Senate Republican plan, Senate File 2378, also allows for “mobile” redemption centers.
Tuesday evening, the bill passed the Senate on a mostly party-line, 31-18 vote with most Republicans for and Democrats against. Sen. Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, was the GOP’s lone vote against.
Schultz said expanding the program — by allowing more types of bottles to be returned for a deposit refund — is not an option because of the drop in the number of redemption centers. While the state once had more than 200 places that accept returned bottles and cans, that number has fallen to fewer than 100.
Democrats argued that the Senate Republican proposal would begin the end of the state’s recycling program. They said they don’t believe the increased fee will lead to more redemption centers, and that if it becomes increasingly harder for Iowans to return their bottles and cans to get their deposit back, they will stop doing so and the program will die.
“This legislation is about killing the bottle bill. It’s not about reforming the bottle bill. It’s not about modernizing the bottle bill. It’s about killing it,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames. “If this bill passes, it kills the bottle bill, a policy which has been wildly popular and quite successful for four decades.”
More than 4 out of 5 Iowans say the state’s recycling program is good for the state, according to recent polling from Selzer and Co. on behalf of the advocacy group Cleaner Iowa. And 4 out of 5 Iowans said they want to see the law remain as is or expanded to include more locations where containers can be returned.
Majority Republicans in the House are working on their own proposed changes to the program. Rep. Brian Lohse, a Republican from Bondurant who is overseeing the House bill, declined to take questions from reporters; he instead issued a statement.
“Right now the Iowa House and Senate have differing proposals on how best to address the bottle bill this session,” Lohse said in the statement. “We’re letting some negotiations play out before determining our next step. We remain hopeful that we will be able to come together and reach an agreement on a good bill for Iowa.”
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