Recycling Bottles for Nickels Could Be a Thing of the Past

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Recycling bottles and cans at the local grocery store in return for change may be a thing of the past, if Republican lawmakers have their way.

House Republicans are considering the repeal of Iowa's decades old "Bottle Bill," but some local recyclers don't support that proposed change.

"I think it's a bad idea because there's tons of people who don't recycle, and when they're worth money, people still throw them out in the streets, and if they`re not worth money it's gonna be even worse, and I don't like litter," said Gretchen Espe.

"I've noticed the streets and the highways are a lot cleaner because people are willing to go and pick them (bottles and cans) up for a nickle, but if it's just recycle stuff, the streets and stuff are gonna get dirty again," said Roger Henning.

Grocers complain about the dirt that comes with all of the recycled empty bottles. And with recyclers bringing thousands of bottles and cans in each day, grocery stores are left having to spend thousands of dollars a month cleaning up the mess.

"These are my step-dad's cans and I do get money back from these. This is just extra money for me, but I think as a bigger picture, it matters more. I don't think this extra money that I'm getting out of this is beneficial to the rest of the world," said Gaibrien Kennedy.

Even though Kennedy personally benefits from the current bottle deposit program, she thinks getting rid of it and having people recycle curbside instead makes a lot of sense.

"A lot of people who are buying the cans and bottles don't want to go return them. So I think it would be a lot more efficient for people, as well as, like, better for the environment," said Kennedy.

But Brian Vander Naald, Drake University Professor of Economics, isn't sold on scrapping the nearly 40-year-old bottle bill.

"I guess I'm not convinced that the bill they are proposing to replace the bottle deposit program would be an improvement, both in terms of effectiveness and in terms of cost," said Naald.

The professor says in order to replace a program that is popular and has been shown to be effective at reducing litter and increasing recycling rates, he would need to see evidence that making changes would work in order for him to support those proposed changes.