Can controversy: Stores stop letting residents redeem recyclables


Can controversy: Stores stop letting residents redeem recyclables

by Beau Bowman

Residents in Creston say they have run into a recycling problem.

Creston residents say they are struggling to redeem their cans because the city’s approved redemption center doesn’t meet the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ guidelines.

Meanwhile, several stores in town reportedly refuse to take back the cans.

Creston resident Lester Franke estimates he has around 3,000 empty cans sitting outside his house, waiting to be recycled.

"(The city) wants to write us a ticket for having our porches look like they're garbage, but it’s not garbage,” Franke said. “It's cans!"

He said he tried to take the cans to the Hy-Vee in town and was told the location does not take empty cans.

Any store that sells beverages in deposit/refund cans must redeem them once they are empty unless the store has a DNR-issued certificate on display with information for a nearby "approved" redemption center.

The Hy-Vee in Creston refers people to The Can Place, located just down the road, but Bill Blum, with the Iowa DNR Land Quality Bureau, said The Can Place doesn't meet the DNR hours of operations standards.

"Four of those hours have to either in the evenings between 6 and 10 p.m. or anytime on Saturdays,” Blum said.

The Can Place is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

"Well, 9 a.m. to noon, no,” Blum said. “That's only three hours on a Saturday and no hours in the evening, so that would not be approved. I would have to get back in touch with that applicant, but they need to add another customer convenience hour some place in that week."

Which means Hy-Vee, Fareway and Casey's must start accepting those cans again.

"When a customer comes into Hy-Vee and says, ‘Your approved redemption center is not open,’ it's a simple matter for the people at the local level to check that out,” Blum said. “And when they find that, yes, the customer is telling the truth, then they have to legally go ahead and resume redeeming their empties."

KCCI called the Hy-Vee, Fareway and Casey's in Creston. Each location said it would not accept cans even if the redemption center is closed weekend evenings.

Those stores could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined somewhere between $65 and $625 for every day they continue to refuse cans.

"I've called the police,” Franke said. “I told them I had this paperwork. They told me ‘good luck.’ They said, ‘Good luck,’ and they just never came. Never followed up with me or nothing."

KCCI reached out to Creston police Chief Paul Vermeer, who said he was unfamiliar with that law and had not heard of any complaints about can redemption.

Hy-Vee sent a statement to KCCI, saying, "The redemption center we work with in Creston, The Can Place, is open during the week and weekends. We will be working with The Can Place so they can remain compliant moving forward and continue to assist our customers. When KCCI brought this inquiry to our attention, this is the only concern we have heard about this situation."

Fareway also sent a statement that said, in part, “These containers, by law, can be returned to any place that sells them -- such as the Iowa State Capitol building, hardware store, department store…

“Yet, there is no enforcement when entities don't take them. Instead grocery stores and convenience stores continue to shoulder the load and have for nearly forty years.

“This must end. Iowans should no longer tolerate, and turn a blind eye to, the sanitation issues these dirty containers bring to a place where you buy your produce and other food.”

KCCI reached out to Casey's General Stores and did not hear back.