DES MOINES — Backers of the state’s beverage container deposit law released poll numbers Thursday showing strong support among Iowans for retaining or expanding the bottle bill to make more cans and bottles subject to the refundable nickel deposit.
Pollster Ann Selzer said a poll of 700 active, registered Iowa voters that she was commissioned by a recycler and glass manufacturer to conduct found nearly nine of 10 respondents saying the deposit law has been good since its inception in 1978.
“That is nearly universal approval,” said Selzer, who discussed the results of her Feb. 23-26 polling during a news conference at the Statehouse, where a bill seeking to replace the 1978 law and expand recycling efforts passed a House standing committee and was referred Thursday to the House Ways & Means Committee — a procedural move that preserves it for consideration during the legislative session. However, a lead sponsor of House Study Bill 163 — supported by grocers, convenience stores and the beverage industry — has said it will go no further this year.
Selzer said her polling found support among every demographic group, political party, congressional district and community type for keeping or expanding the existing law. She said 62 percent of the poll respondents say their households redeem the beer and pop containers, 18 percent recycle them, 14 percent give them to someone else to redeem and 5 percent throw them away.
Mick Barry, president of MidAmerica Recycling, Iowa’s largest recycling facility, said Iowa is among the country’s top recycling states with an 88 percent recovery rate for containers subject to the 5-cent deposit — compared with a national recovery rate of 29 percent.
“It works,” Barry said of the law that is credited with cleaning up highway road ditches and reducing litter significantly. “What’s going to happen if we repeal the bottle bill? We’re going to go backward. We’re going to get back to 29 percent recovery from 88 percent. We do not want to go backward.”
Barry said those who want to change the bottle law see single-stream curbside recycling as a “silver bullet” solution, but he cautioned that such a change would require expensive retrofitting that likely would mean $10 million in costs passed on to central Iowa citizens.
“If we repeal the bottle bill, the citizens of the state will incur increased costs for the recycling at home. It’s common-sense logic,” he said. “Single-stream recycling is not a single solution to the issue. We need to work together and find those solutions that make it work.”
Rep. Andy McKean, R-Anamosa, who was first elected in 1978, said he would like to see the current deposit law enhanced and expanded as part of a comprehensive recycling program.
“It would be my hope that this could spur economic development, could result in more profitable redemption centers and also take the burden off our grocery stores that have been having to handle these cans and bottles all of these many years,” he said. “But to do so, all the stakeholders must get together and be visionary.”
Troy Willard, owner of the Cedar Rapids-based Can Shed Redemption Center, which handled more than 100 million cans and glass and plastic bottles from walk-in locations and retail pickups in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City last year, said he was not surprised by the poll results.
“Our customers that come in every day tell us about it and they fear that this might be repealed and what the consequences of that might be,” he said.
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