Grocer Says ‘No’ As Iowa Governor Resumes Bottle/Can Collections
Friday afternoon, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced she was extending the State Public Health Declaration Emergency. However, she ended the suspension of retailers being required to take bottles and cans effective Sunday, July 26. In short, that means they have to start accepting them again. The grocery industry was ready. The battle is on.
I received the news from the governor's office in an email at 12:06 p.m. Thirty-one minutes later, an email landed from the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA). The headline read, "Concern High as Governor's Proclamation Expires and Redemption Resumes."
In that release, Michelle Hurd, the President of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, said:
IGIA has concerns about accepting containers for redemption inside stores where there is not adequate space, separation and machines to handle them. A number of our retail members feel the situation is not right for them to begin accepting containers at this time. Accepting containers inside our stores while we are still dealing with the risks associated with COVID-19 presents an increased risk to the health and safety of our employees and customers.
IGIA wants everyone to take their empty glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans to redemption centers, and not grocery stores. They even provided a list. There's one in Cedar Rapids. No matter which location you're considering around Iowa, I'd call ahead.
Twenty-nine minutes after the IGIA release, I got one from Fareway President and CEO Reynolds Cramer. He says that Fareway "will not" be taking them. He also says,
Health authorities continue to advise that COVID-19 and other viruses are transmitted through respiratory droplets. Accepting potentially contaminated containers inside our stores presents a great risk of harm to the health and safety of our employees and customers... Allowing used containers to be returned in our stores puts our employees and customers at risk, and runs counterproductive to the many safety and sanitation initiatives we have implemented in order to keep people safe.
There are nine states listed on Bottle Bill, that temporarily exempted retailers from having to accept bottles and cans. Here's what's happened/is happening in each of those states:
- California: Exemption for retailers started on April 22. Is currently in effect until August 22, according to the governor.
- Connecticut: Exemption started March 17, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Full redemption resumed June 3.
- Iowa: Exemption started on March 17. Redemption to resume Sunday, July 26.
- Maine: Exemption started March 18 and ended April 30, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
- Massachusetts: Exemption started March 18, according to the Massachusetts state website. It ended on June 19.
- Michigan: The state website says the exemption began on March 23. The phased ending of the exemption started on June 15.
- New York: I was unable to locate the date the exemption started, but it ended on June 3.
- Oregon: Suspended on March 15, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Exemption ended beginning May 29.
- Vermont: Exemption started on March 18. It was extended through the state's State of Emergency, proclaimed by Governor Phil Scott. That is now in place until August 15.
It's common knowledge that Iowa retailers have long had a distaste for the state's bottle bill but coronavirus is real, serious, and can be deadly. Could you catch the virus from liquids on a bottle or can? I don't know the answer, obviously. New York doesn't think so. This is from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation:
Currently, there is no evidence that suggests that management of residential wastes or recyclables, including returned containers through the bottle bill, represents a danger to the public. Recycling operations, including redemption of containers through the bottle bill are considered essential services.
Clearly the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and at least one retailer, Fareway, disagree with the state of New York. As I said at the beginning, the battle is on. Which charity wants my bottles and cans next? I'm not putting them at the curb.