Iowans’ support for the bottle bill is incredibly strong. A poll taken in February of this year by Seltzer & Company found that 83 percent of Iowans polled supported keeping the current bottle bill or even expanding it. I would call that a mandate.
Over the last several years I have filed bills to try to start discussions but it was difficult to get traction. Each year the demand from constituents to save the bottle bill grew louder. Each year the situation for redemption centers became more desperate and many would close or reduce hours. I believe we finally have a consensus that we must act.
The solution we have sought for many years has been to work with representatives from the redemption centers, the pop and beer distributors, and the retailers. They each have very different interests. It was believed without all parties agreeing we couldn’t get the support to put the bill on the governor’s desk. That sentiment changed in the Senate this year. I was asked to run a bill we believe could create a thriving redemption industry and open new centers around the state. We took the needs of redemption centers to heart and built SF 2122. This bill would have the distributors add two pennies to the current one cent handling fee paid to redemption centers. Tripling the handling fee will allow redemption centers to hire more employees and clear out the huge backlog of cans that have been stored. Once this happens, I believe we will see more locations pop up as redemption companies now have a solid profit motive to get their hands on as many cans as possible.
Technology will be more affordable as cash flow increases, allowing efficiencies to further strengthen the redemption industry. To assist this goal, language in the bill will enable remote drop-off locations to be set up for Iowans. I hosted a tour of this idea a few years back in Shelby, Crawford, and Ida counties. The idea is that a specially modified trailer will have a customer interface where a customer can create an account, have a sticker printed to attach the bag of cans, and have payment digitally sent to an account. It seemed to impress the citizens who came to look at it, especially the charitable organizations. You could enter the account number for Kiwanis, or Boy Scouts, or a local fundraiser. The cans would be picked up by the redemption center servicing the trailer and the money sent to your choice of charity.
One of the agreements we find among many Iowans is that grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retailers are not suitable places to bring dirty, sometimes disgusting, empty cans. That thought was included in SF 2122. Retailers will be required to take cans for one more year at one penny handling fee, then they may opt out. We are working to move cans to the growing number of redemption centers so they can more reliably succeed.
I am confident we can move this simple modernization of the bottle bill out of the Senate and over to the House. They have a bill in consideration as well. Finally, both chambers are motivated to address the most common complaint I receive from western Iowa.
It appears to me we may finish the session a bit early, so this will have to be addressed quickly. With the huge tax relief bill signed by the governor, the appropriations segment of session is upon us. Once we pass a budget that falls in line with conservative principles and supports Iowa’s growth, we will see the end of session come quickly.