Try 1 month for 99¢

CEDAR RAPIDS — A poll commissioned by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, in partnership with the Iowa Beverage Association, has found that Iowans “enormously” support “reforming” and “modernizing” Iowa’s 39-year-old bottle deposit law.

The poll of 500 registered Iowa voters found that 55 percent would support the organizations’ efforts to win approval of legislation to:

  • Take away the 5-cent deposit consumers pay on cans and bottles of carbonated beverages and get back when they return them to a store or redemption center.
  • Create an incentive for the expansion of access and use of curbside recycling.
  • Eliminate the need to return bottles and cans to the grocery stores.
  • Create a fund paid for by the beverage industry to assist with recycling expansion.
  • Create an incentive for landfills and other recycling operations to expand efforts to include cans and bottles.

That essentially is what House File 575, which was approved by the House Environmental Protection Committee earlier this year, would do. After it won committee approval, Chairman Ross Paustian promised not to take further action until 2018 to let interested parties — grocers, convenience stores and the beverage industry, as well as redemption center and recyclers — work on to reach a consensus.

Michelle Hurd, Iowa Grocery Industry Association president, called the bottle bill “progressive for its time,” but said the poll shows Iowans are ready for a more comprehensive recycling and litter prevention approach.

The results are “curious” when compared to one conducted earlier this year, said Nathan Cooper of the Iowa Beer Wholesale Distributors Association. That poll, by Selzer and Co. of 700 active registered voters, found 86 percent of Iowans said the bill was good for Iowa, 77 percent of Iowans supported keeping the bottle bill law in some form and 40 percent favored expanding it. Twenty percent opposed expansion.

The new results are unlikely to prompt distributors to change their opposition to HF 575, he said.

“We support the bottle bill as it is,” he said after reviewing the poll for the grocers and bottlers. The current process represents “sustainable recycling” to the distributors are responsible for collecting the empty beverage.

Cooper warned that the proposed changes could result in the loss of jobs built around container recycling.

The Selzer poll also found 89 percent of Iowans believed the combination of the bottle bill and curbside recycling is the best way to decrease the amount of materials going into landfills. In addition, 81 percent said that if the program were ended, people would not bother with recycling.

The new poll, conducted by Tarrance Group for the bottlers and grocers, showed:

  • 86 percent of Iowans favor encourage recycling by offering curbside or on-site recycling to all homes and businesses
  • 85 percent favor modernizing the current law to make it easier for homes and businesses to recycle their bottles and cans
  • 74 percent favor a statewide litter control and prevention program.

It also showed that about two-thirds of voters were not bothered that empty containers are returned to grocery stores where they shop for food, and three-quarters don’t think the law is unfair because everyone pays the five-cent deposit regardless of income.

The poll, which had a margin of error of 4.5 percent, also found 43 percent favored expanding the bottle bill to cover water, juice and milk containers, but 43 percent were “strongly opposed” to expansion.

“Based on the polling, Iowans do not want to see the bottle deposit expanded or increased,” said John Otterbeck, president of the Iowa Beverage Association and chief customer officer for Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

An estimated 86 percent of beverage containers, or 1.65 billion, are redeemed annually in Iowa, according to the DNR.

Changes to the bottle bill have been introduced nearly every year, but the law remains virtually unchanged from 1979.

Hurd said the poll “demonstrates the need for reform … and helps this conversation move forward.”