Keep Iowa’s Bottle Bill

Garbage disposal programs are something Americans take for granted. Once trash is thrown away and the garbage bin is set out on the curb for pick up, our waste is simply eliminated from our lives. It’s driven away to a “better place”. There are other ways we dispose of our waste, of course, like leaving it in streets and ditches. In April of 1978, the Iowa Beverage Containers Control Law was enacted to clean up after those who choose to practice inappropriate disposal habits that harm Iowa’s landscape. The bill, commonly called the “Bottle Bill”, allows carbonated and alcoholic beverage containers to be turned in at redemption centers in grocery stores. The costumer then gets five cents back for each bottle or can they turn in. Currently, 10 states have the same five cent deposit program, and they are listed on the label of bottles and cans that can be recovered. However, legislative leaders in Iowa are considering erasing Iowa from that list. In February, House Study Bill 74 was created to repeal the Bottle Bill. "With the recycling programs we have, we are way ahead of where we were when the bill was passed," said Representative Ross Paustian, who is in favor of repealing the bill. The proposal died in committee in the Iowa Legislature the first week of March. However, leaders are still showing interest in repealing the legislation. The Bottle Bill is not only credited for cleaning ditches along roads and promoting proper waste disposal, but it is a source for jobs as well. In addition, the bill can be improved because it doesn’t allow the recovery of non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverage containers. Since being established, beverage container waste in Iowa has been reduced by 76% and overall litter reduced by 39%. This is a significant reduction in waste. In a more visual sense, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported that the Bottle Bill recycles 82,352 tons of material per year, which is equivalent to a line of 784 large railroad box cars stretching for nearly 13 miles. Keeping this program in addition to having other recycling programs will continue to decrease litter. Additionally, the financial incentive of the program promotes appropriate waste disposal. The Bottle Bill Resource Guide explains how the deposit-refund system works: “When a retailer buys beverages from a distributor, a deposit is paid to the distributor for each can or bottle purchased. The consumer pays the deposit to the retailer when buying the beverage. When the consumer returns the empty beverage container to a redemption center, or to a reverse vending machine, the deposit is refunded.” I often see people go around town looking for cans to recover because they will be paid for recycling. If more people took note of their actions, better disposal habits will be practiced and more litter will be cleaned up. The Bottle Bill also created 1,200 recycling, retail, and distribution related jobs to the state since being enacted. In a time when the national unemployment rate is 8.7% (as of April 2011) and the government is doing what it can to add more jobs, removing the Bottle Bill is contradictory to the nation’s goal of decreasing unemployment. The program can help spruce up the environment even more by adding non-carbonate and non-alcoholic beverages. This includes plastic disposable water bottles, which made up 25 percent of the beverage market in 2005. The United States is the largest water bottle consumer in the world, and each year 31% of plastic water bottles are recycled. Repealing the Bottle Bill would decrease the number of recycling opportunities. Frankly, repealing the bill is contradictory to nearly all goals of the nation. “Going Green” and beautifying the landscape are missions that have become more realistic with the help of the Bottle Bill. State leaders who still show interest in repealing the bill should take a look at how this program has helped the environment, employment and garbage disposal habits.