Stores resume can and bottle redemption

— Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Stores throughout Iowa have started redeeming cans and bottles again, returning the nickel deposits to customers. The temporary suspension of the state’s “bottle bill” expired on Sunday.

In her March 17 public health emergency proclamation, Gov. Kim Reynolds suspended the legal requirement that stores which sell beverages in cans and bottles accept the containers’ return, and refund the five-cent deposits to customers. Reynolds extended the suspension in subsequent proclamations, but didn’t include it in the new proclamation she issued on Friday.

Most Hy-Vee stores and many other retailers are already accepting returns, but one of Iowa’s leading grocery store chains has announced it will not do so.

“Accepting potentially contaminated containers inside our stores presents a great risk of harm to the health and safety of our employees and customers,” Reynolds W. Cramer, president and CEO of Fareway Stores, said in a news release on Friday.

State law does permit a retailer to refuse to redeem bottles and cans if there is a redemption center in the area. In his statement, Cramer said Fareway stores would post notices with the addresses of the closest redemption center.

According to Cramer, Fareway is refusing to redeem bottles in order “to minimize potential harm to the communities we serve.”

Although Hy-Vee announced its stores will accept returns, there are exceptions. The chain’s Iowa City stores, as well as its stores in Marion, Hiawatha and southwest Cedar Rapids will direct customers to take their containers to the nearest Can Shed location, instead of redeeming bottles and cans.

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association, which has been lobbying for the repeal of the bottle bill for decades, put out a statement on Friday asking the public to support the choices of grocery stores that refuse to accept returns.

Although the association and some retailers oppose the law and consider it an unnecessary burden on businesses, the bottle bill has been popular with the public since Gov. Robert Ray signed it into law in 1979. Research on the impact of the law suggests that it responsible for 71 to 77 percent of the beverage containers that are redeemed every year in Iowa.

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