The defeat of the bottle bill initiative Nov. 3 is testimony to the power of the media. Despite endorsement of the bill by numerous civic associations, individuals were persuaded to vote against long-range benefits to their community. How much better off we would be if the $2 million the bottle lobby spent to defeat the initiative had been used to help recycling centers and quick collection of bottles from storekeepers. People annoyed by ugly street litter, adults and children cut by broken glass and taxpayers who must pay extra to have bottles picked up and hauled to already overflowing dumps will regret that we did not follow the forward-looking example of states whose citizens voted for bottle bills that are now successfully in place.

I hope the initiative will be mounted again and that better public education will help it pass next time. Meanwhile, I'm going to drink healthy juices and water and forgo the bottled drinks produced and promoted by the companies that defeated the bottle bill.

SARAH G. EPSTEIN Washington

John Downs, of the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co., said his group wants to fashion a "comprehensive solution" to litter problems {front page, Nov. 4}. Let's hope it spends at least as many dollars doing that as it spent to defeat the bill that would have begun to solve the problems.

While we continue to watch the waste of throwaways, we will also be watching carefully for any signs of the bottle industry's good faith and intentions. Perhaps Mayor Barry, who also was opposed to the bottle bill, could institute a year-round youth employment program in which young people would collect bottle and can litter. Mr. Downs' group could figure out what to do with the collected lit-ter. JACLIN L. MARLIN Washington