Numerous bills pertaining to Iowa’s container deposit law were introduced during the 2019 session. These proposals looked to modernize the Bottle Bill by including non-carbonated beverages, increasing the handling fee, removing return-to-retail or establishing drop-off redemption locations. While lawmakers did not pass any such legislation, they increased activity and awareness on the issue, and shared significant conversations with stakeholders.
Senator Mark Segebart (R-Vail) introduced SF 59 in the chamber’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee. His bill would have doubled the handling fee paid by distributors from one cent to two cents. Additionally, it would have removed retailers from the container deposit system, requiring consumers to return cans to redemption centers to receive their refunds. SF 59 was ultimately amended and passed out of Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee as SF 520.
As amended, SF 520 would have maintained the handling fee increase paid by distributors from one cent to two cents, effective upon enactment. However, instead of removing retailers from the container deposit system, SF 520 would have allowed them to opt-in by notifying the DNR that they wanted to “participate.” That change would have been effective July 1, 2020. At a subcommittee meeting Senate Ways & Means Chair Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) offered an amendment which made SF 520 consistent with Senate Study Bill 1225 (see below).
Under this measure, a retailer could have chosen to be a “participating dealer” and continued to redeem cans and bottles. Alternatively, they could have refused to redeem containers if a redemption center or “dealer agent” was located within 10 miles of their store. The bill would have required such a retailer to provide notice to the DNR that they would no longer participate in the system. The legislation would have further authorized some of the state’s beer distributors to launch their proprietary “Droppett” program as “dealer agents.” Instead of going to a store or redemption center, a customer could have opened an online account and left cans and bottles at a Droppett location. Machinery would sort and scan containers, and deposit money in the customer’s account at a later date (within a “reasonable time”). In contrast, redemption centers and retailers that chose to keep redeeming containers would continue to immediately pay back deposits.
The second major provision of Feenstra’s bill would have increased the handling fee paid to redemption centers, but shifted some of that burden to retailers. Right now, beer and soda distributors pay redemption centers one cent for each container they process. SSB 1225 would have doubled the fee to two cents per container. However retailers – not distributors – would have paid the extra penny. The bill would have also allowed redemption centers to simply provide notice to the DNR that they were opening for business. Currently, facilities must be licensed by the agency.
This measure, introduced by Rep. Andy McKean (at the time, R-Anamosa) would have expanded the five-cent deposit to many non-carbonated beverages, including bottled water and sports drinks. The proposal would have also raised the handling fee paid to redemption centers to two cents. Although the bill unanimously passed subcommittee, it ultimately died, failing to survive the first “funnel” deadline.
On Wednesday, April 24 McKean announced his intention to leave the GOP and register as a Democrat. He was the longest-serving Republican at the statehouse, first joining the House in 1979, the year after then-Governor Bob Ray signed the bottle bill into law. Since then, McKean has advocated for preserving, and then updating the deposit system.
House Environmental Protection Chair Dean Fisher (R-Montour) introduced HSB 232. His proposal would have doubled the handling fee paid by distributors to redemption centers from one cent to two cents. The measure was assigned a subcommittee, but never had a hearing.
HF 412 would have largely deregulated the deposit system by allowing retailers to refuse to accept beverage containers for redemption. Currently, a grocery store or other retailer can opt-out of accepting cans and bottles by designating a DNR-certified redemption center. Under this bill, stores could have simply provided notice to the DNR that they would no longer redeem containers. Rep. Brian Lohse (R-Bondurant) introduced HF 412. The proposal was originally referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. It was subsequently moved to the Environmental Protection Committee, where it stalled.
Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa) introduced HF 198, which was referred to the House Environmental Protection Committee. The legislation would have expanded the five-cent deposit to non-carbonated beverages including water, coffee and teas. It would have excluded jars, cartons, foil pouches and drink boxes. The measure failed to pass the first legislative funnel, having never received a subcommittee hearing.
Rep. Gaskill also introduced HF 199. It too was referred to the House Environmental Protection Committee. The legislation would have doubled the handling fee in the same manner as in HSB 232. Like HF 198, this measure failed to clear the first legislative funnel, having never received a subcommittee hearing.