Iowa Poll: Most want bottle bill kept or expanded
Iowa grocers want to quit handling returns of cans and bottles, but the 1978 law establishing beverage container redemptions has been popular with the public and effective in encouraging recyling.
Iowa's four-decades-old law requiring a nickel deposit for carbonated and alcoholic beverage containers continues to have broad, popular support from a majority of Iowans, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
Thirty percent of Iowans favor keeping the law the way it is, while another 27 percent want to expand it to include juice and water bottles. At least half of every demographic group expressed similar support.
The option of shifting the redemption of pop and beer cans and bottles from grocery stores to community redemption centers is supported by 16 percent, while scrapping the nickel deposit entirely and replacing it with recycling programs is favored by 22 percent.
The poll, conducted by Selzer and Co. of Des Moines, questioned 801 Iowa adults Jan. 28-31 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Poll respondent Christine Prince, 54, an information technology consultant from Sioux City, said she always recycles her cans and bottles by returning them to the grocery store. She supports keeping the current law the way it is.
"It's a pain, but it works," said Prince, a political independent. "I can understand that people at the grocery store think it is not exactly the cleanest thing in the world to be taking back cans and bottles. But I look at it as a cost of doing business for them."
But poll respondent Christina Christensen, 42, a mother of three children in Council Bluffs who helps with her husband's construction business, favors getting rid of the deposit on beverage containers. She said it's not worth the effort to return them to grocery stores or redemption centers.
"We pay the deposit and a lot of times we don't take them back. We just throw them in our recycling and put them on the curb. With three kids and stuff I don't have time to collect them and get the nickels back. So we are paying for something and we don't get our money back," said Christensen, a political independent.
The survey found that majorities of Republicans (53 percent) and Democrats (60 percent) favor either keeping the law the way it is or expanding it. Sixty-one percent of political independents and 61 percent of Iowans age 65 and older support either of those options as well. The combination of these two options is favored by at least half of every demographic group.
When the Iowa Poll asked similar questions in January 2005, 33 percent favored keeping the law the way it is, while another 29 percent said they wanted to expand the law to include juice and water bottles.
The future of Iowa's beverage container redemption law is one of the policy issues being discussed during the Iowa Legislature's 2018 session. A bipartisan group of more than 40 House members is co-sponsoring House File 2155, which would expand the beverage container law to include water, juice and sports drink bottles.
Troy Willard, owner of the Can Shed redemption center in Cedar Rapids, praised the proposed legislation. It would increase the handling fee for retailers and redemption centers from 1 cent to 2 cents while keeping the deposit at 5 cents for consumers.
"Since starting my business 20 years ago, I have seen the bottle bill save billions of cans, plastic and glass bottles from ending up in the landfill," Willard said. "This legislation will modernize Iowa's bottle bill program, increasing access to recycling and allowing more opportunities for consumers and businesses to participate in keeping Iowa clean."
The Iowa Grocery Industry Association has helped to spearhead a push to replace the bottle deposit requirement with an expanded statewide recycling and litter control program that would eliminate the need for grocers to redeem cans and bottles.
The Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Iowa Beverage Association commissioned their own statewide survey by the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, which found in November that 55 percent of Iowans favored their proposal to get rid of the bottle bill. Their survey of 500 likely Iowa voters, which had a margin of error of 4.5 percent, appears contrary to other polls through the years that have shown widespread public support for the bottle bill.
"Iowa’s can and bottle redemption law was progressive for its time, but Iowans are ready to see a comprehensive law that makes it easier for all Iowans to recycle and has a clear litter prevention strategy," said Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. "We support a 21st century sustainability and recycling solution.”
Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, a lawyer for the the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, contends the law has been a big success and should be retained. He said voluntary compliance sounds nice, but having a nickel deposit on beverage containers provides many Iowans with a financial incentive to do the right thing for the environment.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the recovery rate for containers covered under the bottle deposit law is 71 percent, down from 86 percent in 2007. However, the decrease in the recovery rate is consistent with other states that also have a bottle bill, DNR officials said. Supporters of the bottle law contend that if the deposit is repealed the recycling rate will plunge, resulting in littered urban neighborhoods and rural roadside ditches.
About the poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted January 28-31 for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 801 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age and sex to reflect the general population based on recent census data.
Questions based on the sample of 801 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.