Iowa’s Bottle Bill

Iowa’s Beverage Containers Control Law, also known as the “Bottle Bill,” was passed in 1978 as a litter control measure. Litter is reduced by encouraging recycling through a deposit-redemption system covering all carbonated and alcoholic beverage containers.

The popularity of this 40-year-old law is evident in the high level of participation by Iowa businesses and citizens. An estimated 71% of beverage containers are redeemed annually in Iowa, reducing litter, creating jobs and keeping materials out of landfills.

Does Iowa’s Bottle Bill need to be modernized? Yes! Until recently, Iowa’s container redemption rate was 85%. While the current rate of 71% is still more than twice as high as states without a Bottle Bill (29%), the lower rate reveals the need to update the legislation so more kinds of containers can be redeemed with improved convenience.


2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY


The early part of the 2018 Legislative Session saw efforts to modernize the Bottle Bill through HF 2155, which would have added water bottles, juices, teas and sport drinks to the deposit law. This bill was introduced by Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) along with more than 40 co-sponsors, both Republicans and Democrats. Ultimately, the effort to modernize the Bottle Bill stalled. A subcommittee meeting was not held on HF 2155 and it did not survive the first legislative funnel.

Efforts to repeal the Bottle Bill remained alive from last year. The House and Senate each had Ways and Means bills carried over: HF 575 and SSB 1186.  Subcommittee meetings for these repeal bills, drafted by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and Iowa Beverage Association, were held in mid-March.

The House subcommittee meeting was chaired by Rep. Vander Linden. Chairman Vander Linden began the meeting by clearly stating the repeal bill was dead, but indicated the meeting was being held to hold a discussion with all stakeholders to work toward a resolution on the issue. There was a suggestion to put together an interim committee with members from the House Ways & Means and Environmental Protection committees to work on a possible solution for next year. Nothing, however, was definitively put forth at the meeting.

The Senate subcommittee was chaired by Senator Feenstra, who stated that he was not interested in repealing the Bottle Bill, but rather was looking for ways to remove redemption from retail locations. All three members of the subcommittee were open to changing the Bottle Bill and working to find a solution to remove redemption from retail locations.

In summary, discussions continued with legislators regarding changes to the Bottle Bill, but no consensus was reached.

If you have questions about the Bottle Bill, contact our Legislative Committee Chairs: Troy Willard or Alan Schumacher.

WHAT HAS IOWA’S BOTTLE BILL ACCOMPLISHED?


LESS LITTER

Beverage container litter has been reduced by 77%, according to an Iowa DOT survey.

MORE RECYCLING

Iowa’s container recycling rate is among the top in the nation at over 71%. That’s two and a half times the recycling rate for containers in U.S. states without a Bottle Bill (29%).

MORE JOBS

Nearly 900 jobs are supported at redemption points. This includes jobs for disabled clients at numerous non-profit organizations across the state.

HOW DOES THE BOTTLE BILL WORK?


The beverage distributor charges the retailer 5¢ for each carbonated or alcoholic beverage container delivered.

The retailer charges each consumer 5¢ for each container purchased.

The consumer gets 5¢ back from the retailer or redemption center when returning empties.

The beverage distributor pays the retailer/redemption center 5¢ plus a 1¢ handling fee when picking up empties.

NO MONEY IS PAID TO OR COLLECTED BY THE GOVERNMENT.

HOW CAN THE BOTTLE BILL BE IMPROVED?


INCREASE THE HANDLING FEE

Iowa’s 1¢ handling fee has remained unchanged since 1979 and is the lowest among all container-deposit states. As costs have risen, two-thirds of Iowa’s redemption centers have closed. By increasing the handling fee, more redemption centers will open … creating new jobs, relieving pressure on grocery stores as a point of redemption and making recycling more convenient!

INCLUDE WATER & SPORTS DRINK CONTAINERS

Bottled water and sports drinks were not available in 1979 when Iowa’s Bottle Bill was created. These beverages now make up over half of the state’s containerized beverage purchases, and are landfilled at twice the rate of redeemable containers. By expanding the Bottle Bill to include water and sports drinks, Iowans will be encouraged to return these containers.

DO IOWANS SUPPORT THE BOTTLE BILL?


OVERWHELMINGLY, THE ANSWER IS YES!

A 2017 poll conducted by J. Ann Selzer found 88% of active Iowa voters say the Bottle Bill has been good for the state. The latest poll, conducted in January 2018, shows 30% of Iowans favor keeping the law the way it is, while another 27% want to expand it to include juice and water bottles.

Strong support is found by Iowans of all ages and political persuasions.

LEARN MORE


SOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION

Economics of the Iowa Bottle Bill >> (Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University)
Bottle Bill Facts >> (iowabottlebill.com)
Iowa’s Bottle Bill Fact Sheet >> (Iowa Policy Project)
Iowa’s Bottle Bill >> (Recycling Policy Study Committee, Department of Natural Resources)
Bottle Deposit Law >> (Iowa Department of Natural Resources)
Bottle Bill Resource Guide >> (Container Research Institute)
State Beverage Container Deposit Laws >> (National Conference of State Legislatures)
Container Deposit Law >> (Iowa Wholesale Beer Distributors Association)



PANEL DISCUSSION: THE BOTTLE BILL PAST AND FUTURE TIME FOR A CHANGE TO LITTER AND RECYCLING POLICY?

In October 2017, Iowa Grocery Association Industry representatives and Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute, participated in a panel discussion at the Iowa Recycling and Solid Waste Management Conference.

WATCH VIDEO of panel discussion >>
VIEW Susan Collins’ presentation  >>
VIEW Iowa Grocery Industry presentation  >>
VIEW questions submitted prior to and during the panel discussion  >>

CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR


We encourage you to contact your Legislator and share your thoughts about the proposed legislation. Find contact information and learn about other ways to interact with your representatives on our Advocacy page.