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Jackson County business says Iowa’s bottle deposit law needs to change

MAQUOKETA, Iowa-- The owner of a can and bottle redemption center in Maquoketa says her business is struggling and Iowa lawmakers need to change the bottle deposit to keep the program alive.

Marry Ann Renner, owner of Can City, has owned and operated redemption centers in Eastern Iowa for 21 years. She has two centers right now but had to close two others a few years ago.

"The penny a can just don't make it anymore. It did 15 years ago," she says. "We're just struggling to stay in business."

When customers bring in their empty cans and bottles, they get five cents back. That's the five cents they deposited when they bought their pop or beer.

Centers and grocery stores that redeem cans and bottles get paid a handling fee, one cent per can, from distributors like Coke, Pepsi or Bud Light. Distributors pick up the containers to have them recycled.

Manager Faith Jones says Can City fills an important need. She says cans and bottles would just end up in landfills or ditches, instead of being recycled, if it weren't for places like Can City.

"I see more people coming in because they realize they can get their money back," she says. "We have people come from Dubuque, Clinton, Dyersville, 50 miles away to get their money back."

A proposed bill in Iowa would double the handling fee for redemption centers. It would also add sports drinks and water bottles to the program.

Renner says that would help her open more redemption centers, and she says others would open centers, too.

She says without a handling fee increase, she'll have to close.

Another proposed bill would no longer require grocery stores to be part of the program.

Right now, they either have to redeem containers or have a designated redemption center. That helps ensure people have somewhere to actually get their deposit back.

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association tells News 8 redeeming cans and bottles is a burden on grocery stores. President Michelle Hurd says grocery stores dislike having to deal with dirty containers near food. She also says smaller grocery stores can't afford to hire enough staff to process the containers and redemption machines cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hurd says by lifting the requirement for grocery stores, more people would head to redemption centers.

But Renner says she's worried people in smaller communities wouldn't have anywhere to turn.

"What if you're from a small town and you don't have a redemption center?" she says. "Where are you going to take them? Are you going to drive 45 miles away?"

Redemption centers are dwindling. A number of centers listed on the DNR website are closed.

According to the Iowa DNR, 71 percent of beverage containers sold each year are redeemed, keeping them out of the landfill.

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