Iowa Recycling Association: Time for a better bottle bill

BY GUEST COLUMN | MAY 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Believe it or not, as Iowans, we have the potential to take something that is both overwhelmingly successful and incredibly popular and make it even better than it already is. In the world of public policy, that may be rare, but this opportunity exists right now with the modernization of the Iowa Bottle Bill.

In 1978, Gov. Robert Ray and then-Rep. Terry Branstad championed the bipartisan landmark container deposit law in 1978, now known to us as the Iowa Bottle Bill. At that time, many saw the enormous potential this effort had for cleaning up our lakes and streams, keeping additional litter out of our landfills and creating good jobs and economic opportunities for more hardworking Iowans.

That potential that existed in 1978 has more than exceeded our expectations today.

Looking back over the last 35 years, few can argue about the successes of the Iowa Bottle Bill. Our state became recognized as a worldwide leader in recycling, hundreds of good jobs created, and more than 90 percent of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans make it back to redemption centers. Countless civic and community organizations, schools, and churches have used this law to make a difference in the lives of those around us. As a result, we are keeping Iowa beautiful, preserving our bountiful natural resources, and guaranteeing generations of Iowans the ability to enjoy our beautiful parks and trails without the blight of unwanted litter.

With that impressive track record, it should come as no surprise that a recent February Iowa Poll shows that the law remains incredibly popular across all political spectrums and a strong supermajority — 64 percent — of Iowans not only support Iowa’s existing bottle bill but also support modernizing this important legislation. Iowans know the program, and they like it.

However, there is more that can and must be done.

Our technology has vastly improved, our lifestyles have evolved, but there are many new beverage containers for water, juice, and sports drinks that did not exist when Iowa’s Bottle Bill was initially adopted. That is why the Iowa Recycling Association is passionately calling on Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa Legislature to work together this session to pass, and for Branstad to sign, a better and more modern Iowa Bottle Bill without delay.

Modernizing Iowa’s Bottle Bill will have a direct and positive effect on Iowa’s economy not only by preserving hundreds of Iowa jobs but adding important new jobs to Iowa’s economy. For instance, more than 500 million new containers that Iowans now use, which largely end up in landfills, would be covered by modernizing the Bottle Bill to include non-carbonated beverages such as water, juice, and sports drinks. According to a 2012 study by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, these additional containers would create more than 300 new Iowa jobs and protect more than 870 jobs that already exist.

This is not a new issue, but it is an important one. We have a golden opportunity to take something popular that works well and make it even better. By acting on legislation this year to expand Iowa’s container-deposit law, we can help create Iowa jobs, clean up our environment, and make our great state an even better place for generations to come. The time for action is now.

Teresa M. Kurtz, executive director
Iowa Recycling Association

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