As transplanted New Yorkers living in D.C., we find it odd to be reexperiencing the bottle bill debate that rocked our upstate New York city in the early '80s. We hear again the self-serving arguments of the container industry, the appeals to consumer sloth and small-business paranoia. Really, it is almost silly. The bottle bill works.

It is not inconvenient for consumers. It is not expensive. As consumers, we easily picked up the habit of saving containers and cashing them in at the store whenever we returned for more groceries. Each load returned pays the deposit on the next. And in just one example of the impact on business, a friend who owns a beer distributorship actually profited from the bill. He advertised that he would accept any type of returnable container, thereby drawing customers into the store who might not otherwise have gone to it.

In this beautiful capital city, it seems so wasteful to litter the streets and discard valuable, recyclable resources. There just is no good reason to oppose Initiative 28. Those who believe otherwise are allowing their good sense to be swayed by expensive propaganda put out by the container industries, who stand to lose if it passes.



All the fuss about the bottle bill and the recent indictment of major soft-drink executives for price-fixing caused me to call my mother back in Chicago. I asked her to tell me the prices she sees in the stores for soda there. I thought I'd share the results.

Chicago allows beverages to be sold in both returnable and nonreturnable bottles. A returnable eight-pack of 16-ounce bottles (128 ounces) of Coke or Pepsi was selling at the Jewel (local equivalent of the Giant) for $1.69. (It was also on sale for 99 cents elsewhere.) Since you get your 80-cent deposit back when you return your bottles, the net cost to the consumer works out to about 1.3 cents per ounce. A six-pack of 16-ounce nonreturnables was selling for $2.15 or about 2.2 cents per ounce.

My first question is why does a six-pack of soda (nonreturnables) cost from $2.49 to $2.69 in the Baltimore/Washington area in the first place? My second question is how do the opponents of the D.C. bottle bill justify their statements regarding consumer cost increases if the experience of another locality shows that returnables are actually cheaper?

If the results of my informal survey are accurate, nonreturnables cost twice as much as returnables. Why do we allow this gouging to go on?

JOHN J. McGING Catonsville

I am disgusted with the attitude some people have that they can't be bothered to return bottles and cans. If you're going to the store to get bottles and cans filled with a beverage, how hard can it be to take with you bottles and cans filled with air? They're even lighter than what you're going to carry out of the store.

Deposits on returnable bottles and cans work -- there is far, far less litter in those states that have this law than those that don't. That should be reason enough to pass the bottle bill initiative. More and more, people are just going to have to be willing to pitch in and do some "inconvenient" things to help take care of the environment.

The other morning I helped a friend load her car with a year's worth of washed empty tin cans and glass bottles to be taken to the University of Maryland's recycling center. Being a good citizen sometimes is an inconvenience; but inconvenience is a poor excuse for doing nothing.