Tinkering with the bottle deposit

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

There is some justification for a proposal to raise the deposit in Iowa on bottles and cans of beverages from five cents to 10 cents but Governor Culver's plan has a couple of flaws.

The deposit was initially put in place 30 years ago. Since that time, the cost of living has more than tripled.

An adjustment in the deposit is overdue but the best policy would be to coordinate with other states to increase the deposit simultaneously. Currently, only Michigan has a dime deposit on bottles and cans.

We don't believe that there will be a heavy influx of cans and bottles crossing state lines as the result of the extra nickel payment but there would be some, and it is impractical to expect each can or bottle to be inspected even if the can or bottle was labeled according to state of origin. The one-cent per container payment for recycling centers barely makes it worthwhile for the recycling centers to operate. They can only do so by relying on speed of workers in dealing with a high volume of containers.

There is also justification in a proposal to expand the deposit to include bottled water, flavored teas and sports drinks. After all, those containers are no less troublesome as litter than any other containers. But, once again, a coordinated effort with other states would make sense.

One part of Culver's proposal that we do not support, is the proposal to return only 8 cents of the 10-cent deposit, with one cent to be used to offset the handling charge at recycling centers and the other cent to go toward funding the Resource Enhancement And Protection (REAP) program.

A deposit should remain a deposit, meaning refunding the full amount when an item is returned. It shouldn't be used for processing and definitely shouldn't become diverted as a new tax.