Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Are we ready for bottle and can deposit charges at grocery stores?

Iowa earned its share of national media attention this week with Monday’s Republican caucus, but today I’d like to focus on something that more directly affects daily life: empty cans and bottles.

Our western neighbor is just one of 10 states with a beverage container deposit law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Since 1978, Hawkeyes have paid a nickel per container on each retail purchase (60 cents per 12-pack), which makes empties worth 5 cents each for folks willing to clean and return them to redemption centers.

The only other Midwestern state with a similar setup is Michigan, which charges 10 cents for “any airtight container under one gallon composed of metal, glass, paper or plastic” that contains “beer, wine coolers, canned cocktails, soft drinks, carbonated and mineral water.” Iowa’s deposit applies to wine and liquor with no maximum container size. In Iowa, distributors and bottlers retain unredeemed deposits. In Michigan that pool is split, 75% to state environmental programs and 25% to retailers.

When vacationing in Michigan, I end up surrendering the dime by tossing empty Pepsi bottles in the campground recycling container. But when living in an Iowa dorm, I dutifully saved each empty can to bring back to Hy-Vee. Classmates itching for spending money frequently raided community garbage cans to round up recyclables. But that was decades before 2023 bottle bill revisions allowed stores to opt out of redemption based on a variety of criteria.

Visiting in-laws in Whiteside County brings exposure to the dilemma of border-county residents. The primary grocery stores are across the Mississippi in Iowa. No one on the Illinois side will pay 5 cents per container, and few households have enough volume to even bother trying to find a scrapper. Curbside recycling programs work well, but it means watching a few dollars hauled away every week.

Those concerns are all at the individual consumer level, only a part of the overall puzzle. With a hat-tip to Capitol Fax for the link, I commend a post from Marissa Heffernan at trade publication Resource Recycling regarding Illinois Senate Bill 85, which could create a deposit return system here ( The piece explores the other factors: landfill fees, municipal expenses, litter abatement and input from recycling facilities.

“We all have the same goal,” said Todd Shumaker, owner and director of procurement for Midwest Fiber Recycling. “We all live in a world where we want to see more collection of material, (the question is) just how we make it happen.”

Recycling is big business, and environmental concerns are sincere, but consumers are intensely resistant to both spikes in commodity purchase prices and drastic changes to expectations for how we should deal with household items.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at