After two years of indectision, the Montgomery County Council voted yesterday to make Oct. 1, 1978, the starting date for requiring five-cent deposits on all beer and soft drink containers sold in the county.
Montgomery will follow Fairfax and Loudoun counties in implementing such antilitter measures.
Fairfax County was the first Washington area jurisdiction to implement a deposit law; one is scheduled to go into effect in Loudoun Jan. 1.
The law that went into effect in Fairfax Sept. 1 does not apply to beer, although the Loudoun and Montgomery measures will.
In Montgomery as in Fairfax, the law will prohibit sale of pop-top cans: in Loudoun, stores will be able to sell them if a refund is given for their return.
The Montgomery Council decided to form a task force to study the possibility of setting up redemption centers where consumers could take empty containers and collect their deposits.
Such centers would relieve stores of the task of sorting the containers and encourage retailers to stock mostly reusable containers, according to Councilman Norman Christeller.
The Council also asked the task force to study the possibility of reimbursing consumers two-cents less for returning throwaway bottles or cans, while returning the full 5 cents per container deposit only on for reusable containers.
The task force also will be responsible for working out the logistics of the law - where the redemption centers should be, where the returned containers should be stored and where the nonreusable ones should be disposed of.
The task force also is expected to recommend whether the operator of a redemption center should be a private company or a government agency.
It is estimated that the county will collect as much as $6 million a year from the deposits, but the most of that money will be returned to the consumers.
The law will create a certain leeway for confusion, according to Christeller, one of its main proponents, since it is not enforceable in the county's major municipalities, such as Rockville and Gaithersburg, which set their own laws. "None of them (the municipalities) have indicated a willingness" to pass a deposit law, according to Christeller.
"You'll have one Giant in Rockville which is not collecting the deposits and one a few miles away that is," Cristeller added.
The deposit law was written two years ago as a companion to the county's container tax. That tax, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will add two to four cents to the cost of a nonreusable will be charged to distributors. It is expected to raise between $2 million and $4 million if it does not discourage people from using monreturnable beverage containers.
Council members appear to be split over whether to continue the container tax once the deposit law goes into effect next year, according to Christeller.