WITH LOTS of money but little regard for the intelligence of D.C. shoppers, national beer and soft-drink manufacturers continue to bankroll a campaign against the litter-reduction bill that will be on the ballot in November. On the heels of last month's mailing of assertions by people claiming to have suffered all sorts of personal troubles because of anti-throwaway-containers laws in other states, the throwaway lobby is now recarbonating old falsehoods about returnable containers. It's supposed to scare people, but the claims border on the silly. Any D.C resident who thinks about it should wind up voting "Yes" on Initiative 28.
The flimsiest arguments come from a group that has misnamed itself the "Clean Capital City Committee." The committee's chairman argues that in New York, the year after a deposit law went into effect, "beer consumption dropped 7.9 percent" -- which many people may consider a fine reason to vote for the bill. But the chairman also claims that deposits cause prices to "increase dramatically" because, among other things, "special packaging must be created." Just how "special" is a refillable bottle or can? In states with deposit laws, the only "special" thing about these containers is a label or stamp indicating that they're worth a certain amount when returned. As for price differences, shoppers who have compared prices of the same beverage in the same locale at the same time know that the per-ounce price of the returnable is usually lower. Why shouldn't it be, when that same "special" package comes back ready for use a second time?
There's the further scare argument that storekeepers will face "increased pest-control costs because unwashed beverage cans and bottles attract insects and rodents." Many items, from fresh fruit to candy to old throwaway cola cans tossed in an alley behind a store, are equally bothersome attractions; but stores handle them routinely.
A storekeeper in Adams-Morgan who opposes the bottle bill claims in one breath that he hasn't the space to handle returnables and in another that many people tend not to bother returning bottles. If he's right about those people, he won't have a space problem. If not, smart distributors will see to it that their deliveries and pickups of returnables are coordinated. District residents who now pay taxes for trash collections wouldn't mind lightening the load a bit, either. They know that common sense calls for enactment of the proposal.