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Law requires businesses to take back empties

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, because those with the redemption center say they’re closed legally each store has to take back the cans and bottles that they sell.

Posted: May 14, 2018 8:42 AM

MASON CITY, Iowa- Troy Levenhagen, the owner of Suzie Q Café in Mason City, collects around 130 cans each week from his business and redeems them at the North Iowa Redemption Center.

“We get charged the five-cent deposit and we take it and purchase our pop orders,” he said.

Since the North Iowa Redemption Center is currently closed due to what they say is nonpayment from their distributors, he says redeeming his empty containers has been frustrating.

“Some people that just have $.50 even and they’re being rejected to take the cans back but the state law says that you have to take them back,” said Levenhagen.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, because those with the redemption center say they’re closed legally each store has to take back the cans and bottles that they sell. KIMT News 3's Brian Tabick took two bags of cans and bottles to several area stores: Walmart, Dollar General and Fareway in Mason City. All said they do not take cans back while Aldi, and Target accept the cans and bottles that they sell at their stores.

While not accepting a redemption is considered a simple misdemeanor for theft of a nickel, charging the crime isn’t simple.

“Do I see charges being filed? Probably not,” said Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley. “This really is something that we don't know a lot about but we are tasked with enforcing it a different points.”

Chief Brinkley said he has never seen a case where someone called the police because a store wouldn’t take empty containers, but Levenhagen said he wants to see these businesses held accountable.

“It’s unfortunate that stores have made their own rules because they’re taking the five cents from us for the product we buy but yet they’re refusing to take it back,” Levenhagen said.

We did speak to Dollar General’s Corporate Office. Despite the Mason City location saying they don’t take empty containers, the representative we spoke with says each location should be accepting them.

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