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DNR to Police: Enforce the Bottle Bill

Andy Arthur/flicker

Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources report a problem with enforcement of Iowa's 35-year old bottle bill. 

Some retailers are turning consumers away when they bring their bottles and cans back for a refund. 

Retailers sometimes contract with redemption centers to take back the containers. But officials say centers are cutting back their hours to make ends meet. They say their one-cent handling fee hasn't been raised since the bottle bill passed.

That throws the responsibility back to retailers. 

The DNR's Bill Blum says consumers are going back to stores and getting told no.

"That's where local law enforcement is supposed to come in," Blum says.  

An interim statehouse committee is studying possible changes to Iowa's bottle bill. Blum tells lawmakers he's been advising law enforcement to cite stores if they don't accept returns.

"That kind of violation is a misdemeanor, like vandalism or shoplifting," Blum says.  

Alternatively, Blum says, police should go to the stores and remind them of the requirements of the law.  

Blum says he's heard complaints from consumers in Fort Madison and Ottumwa where redemption centers have scaled back.  

Lawmakers also heard stores’ perennial complaints about handling dirty bottles and cans. Distributors who pick up the returns told the committee they want to replace the bottle bill with a recycling program.