The editorial "More Bottle Propaganda" {July 28} attacks the Clean Capital City Committee for being backed by business. Business is not automatically bad. The businesses that make up the Clean Capital City Committee have seen the effects of deposit laws elsewhere. That's why they are opposed to forced deposits.

There's no denying that forced deposits hurt the beverage business and create an inconvenient hassle for consumers. In New York, almost $100 million in soft-drink sales were lost the year after the state imposed mandatory deposits. Beer consumption dropped 7.9 percent that same year.

But the cost of forced deposits extends well beyond big business -- to consumers, small retailers and local government.

Forced deposits affect consumers because beverage prices increase dramatically. Ask residents in deposit states. In New York, residents faced a 25 percent increase for some beer brands in addition to paying $300 million annually in deposits. Canned soda prices went up about 10 percent in New York in addition to the deposit. In Iowa, consumers paid more than $36 million in higher beverage prices during the first year of forced deposits -- not counting the deposit itself.

Prices go up because special packaging must be created, separate inventories must be kept, wholesalers and retailers must find a place to store empty beverage containers and assign workers to sort them. There are increased pest-control costs because unwashed beverage cans and bottles attract insects and rodents. Retailers must be careful that these pests don't contaminate fresh-food supplies. They also must make sure that the food isn't contaminated by pesticides.

Those lost sales don't just mean lost money for the beverage companies. Each retailer experiences a drop in sales. That means lost income. Retailers who are close to a boundary that can be easily crossed to obtain deposit-free beverages are especially hard hit. For example, stores on the Michigan border lost 50 to 80 percent of their soft-drink sales in the three years following the imposition of a deposit law. Retailers in the District would find themselves in precisely the same situation if a deposit bill were passed here.

Lost sales also mean lost tax revenues. A report commissioned by the New York state legislature shows that state's treasury lost $9.2 million during the first year of forced deposits in that state. A New Hampshire study shows that Vermont residents crossing the border to buy beer in neighboring states without deposits meant nearly $200,000 in lost tax revenues for Vermont during the first full year of forced deposits.

The bottom line is that every container must be handled twice instead of once. That means added expense for everybody.

And these added costs are not balanced by reductions in public spending for litter cleanup. It's easy to see why, since only about 10 percent of urban litter is beverage related. Statistics show that total litter in New York increased 3.4 percent during the first year of forced deposits. Total litter in Michigan during a similar period increased almost 10 percent.

Even if a high percentage of District residents responded to deposits, we would still have a litter problem. The deposit law wouldn't even clear the streets of beverage containers. People who litter would continue to litter, and beverage containers from neighboring states -- which would have no deposit value -- would still be disposed of improperly.

The desire to clean up Washington, D.C., is laudable and is a goal to which we all aspire. That's why the major members of the Clean Capital City Committee serve on the District's Litter and Solid Waste Reduction Commission. That's why the Clean Capital City Committee is playing a major role in promoting and helping to finance multimaterial recycling and litter-control efforts. That's why we sponsor a scholarship program in the D.C. schools to promote litter-control education.

We know forced deposits do not offer any long-term comprehensive solution to the litter problem. I think District residents are smart enough to realize that there are legitimate reasons for our opposition to Initiative 28. -- John H. Downs Jr. The writer is chairman of the Clean Capital City Committee.