Changes to Iowa's bottle redemption program prompts a recycling revolution
Iowa's bottle and can redemption program is being revolutionized by technology that could eliminate the need for consumers to sort cans, multiple beverage and redemption officials tell Axios.
- At one Des Moines test site, users simply put a QR sticker on bags for redemption funds to be automatically deposited into their bank account.
Why it matters: Recycling is becoming more convenient and far more sanitary. Automation could also help eliminate redemption center deserts.
Context: Iowa law has for decades generally required stores to collect empty cans and bottles and return customer deposits on them.
- Grocers have struggled with the requirements, saying that bringing the empty cans and bottles inside food establishments runs contrary to public health.
Driving the news: Lawmakers this year overhauled the state's bottle bill to allow stores to retire their collection programs if a redemption center is within a 10 or 15 mile radius.
- Starting Jan. 1, handling fees paid by beverage distributors to redemption centers will increase from 1 to 3 cents per container.
What's happening: Redemption centers are gearing up for growth.
- Some processing companies are investing millions of dollars in new technology as a result, David Adelman, a lobbyist for the Iowa Wholesale Beer Distributors Association tells Axios.
Zoom in: CRINC, a DSM-based redemption business, has a "Droppett" test site that allows people to leave their specially marked bags of empties at a mobile redemption center.
- New machinery that can count about 5,000 cans or bottles an hour is used to process the returns, using QR codes on bags to deposit refunds into a consumer's account.
- Around 85 customers are using the test site, Doug Webb, president of CRINC told Axios Tuesday.
Try it: Customers have to create a Droppett account and use their custom QR stickers for returns to be properly processed. The facility is located at 1600 E. Euclid Ave. in DSM.
What's next: The locations and number of Droppett centers that will launch in coming months is under review, Webb said.
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