Guest Columnist

Iowa man wants his nickels back

Grocery store can redemption set to resume on July 26, more than four months after Gov. Kim Reynolds relaxed the requirement

Can redemption bins on Thursday, July 2, 2020, at the downtown Hy-Vee, one of only a handful of locations that still tak
Can redemption bins on Thursday, July 2, 2020, at the downtown Hy-Vee, one of only a handful of locations that still takes cans and bottles in Des Moines. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP)

I’ve run out of patience with Gov. Kim Reynolds using the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic to suspend the requirement that retailers take back cans and bottles.

This requirement, called the “bottle bill,” has been with us since 1979. That’s 41 years of very successful encouragement to recycle instead of littering. Our governor used the excuse that taking back cans and bottles would “prevent or hinder efforts to cope with this disaster in all counties of our state.”

Our governor took this action in March. It’s been about 16 weeks now and I still can’t take my cans back to Hy-Vee. I want my nickels back! My original recycling tub was full, as was a spare, and a garbage bag was almost full.

Our governor had no problem with opening restaurants and thanks to her, I can spend the nickels I should have received from Hy-Vee at the Riverside Casino slot machines. It is exhausting trying to argue against the absurd logic our governor keeps stating. For example, suggesting returning containers poses a threat to public health, for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no evidence.

There are annual attempts in the Iowa Legislature to change the bottle bill — not expanding the bottle bill to include plastic water bottles, which seem to be discarded everywhere, but instead to alter it so Hy-Vee does not have to take back cans and bottles.

Normally, any business responsible for environmental damage is held responsible for cleaning up what they have caused. Hy-Vee may have a “smile in every aisle,” but Hy-Vee also seems to have beer and wine displays in every aisle too. Impulsively pick up a 6-pack but just try to return the empties, 16 weeks and still counting.

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association lobbied our governor for the suspension, and it obviously worked. It took 40 years but they were finally successful. It was easy for our governor to make the decision to open the casinos, but the decision to return to bottle and can recycling appears to be more difficult.

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That decision was referred to the DNR, which is problematic. Not only would the DNR be overstepping its authority, the DNR is also an appointed body and they are appointed by the governor. Don’t tell me not to be worried.

Having also lost patience with Hy-Vee, I went to the Can Shed and spent $5 on a big recycling box and 2 bags that fit inside. It’s actually convenient to use and now I’ve consolidated my tubs into one full bag, which is big and heavy. Lucky for me, I have a van and strong enough to throw it in the back, as long as nothing else is already there. Meanwhile, Hy-Vee is probably arguing, “See, you don’t need us after all.”

There goes 41 years of progress.

In the meantime, I’m just glad the deposit is only a nickel and not 10 cents like Michigan.

Terry Dahms lives in Iowa City.

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