Fareway refuses to redeem bottles and cans despite Gov. Reynolds lifting moratorium

Iowa News

DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO-TV) – Fareway grocery stores announced this week it will not be collecting bottles and cans for redemption, even though doing so violates state law.

Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency declaration that allowed retailers to suspend redemption programs expired. Chains like Hy-Vee and Kum & Go are amongst those resuming collection for the 5-cent deposits in compliance with state law, but Fareway said it is still not safe for its stores to resume collection.

“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,” the company said. 

In a statement, Fareway CEO Reynolds Cramer said, in part: “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.” 

Fareway is requiring masks for employees and implementing other sanitary measures, but is only recommending face coverings for customers.

Nicole Showers, a longtime employee of Fareway, has handled the bottle redemption program for six years. She said grocery store workers are already putting their health on the line and don’t need to add additional risk factors.

“My big concern is for our health,” she said. “COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets and that’s a main focus with bottles and cans, that’s directly taken through mouths. We wanna avoid putting that into our stores, having our employees handle that material and product we’re trying to sell to customers and community.”

The Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the program, said stores refusing to redeem containers can be charged with a simple misdemeanor. DNR bureau chief Amie Davidson said the department has received at least a dozen complaints about stores like Fareway not complying, but she said it is up to local officials to enforce.

Fareway said getting charged with a misdemeanor would be “disappointing,” and that all its stores have redemption center information posted for customers.

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