A poll shows that Virginians overwhelmingly support a bottle bill, but the leader of the movement yesterday said translating public support into legislative action will be as difficult as ever during this session of the General Assembly.

The bill to require deposits on bottles has been killed in committee 11 straight years. Sen. Madison Marye (D-Montgomery) said three legislators are reconsidering their positions -- possibly enough to get the bill through committee and onto the floor. "Hope springs eternal," he said.

Marye told a news conference packed with bottle bill supporters that a Gallup Poll conducted for Virginia Polytechnic and State University showed that 76 percent of Virginians support mandatory deposits as a way to encourage recycling and reduce roadside litter.

The bill, which would require a 5-cent deposit on all beverage containers, is opposed by a variety of merchants, bottlers and distributors who say it would cost millions of dollars -- an assertion Marye dismisses.

Backers of the bottle bill include the League of Women Voters, the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and even former governor Linwood Holton.

A hearing on Marye's bill is slated Monday before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.