THROUGH MANY YEARS and countless tons of wasted glass and metal, Montgomery County has remained a leader in this region's war against throwaway bottles and cans. Today, still more action is scheduled in the county council that may determine whether the county stays in the forefront or bows to industry opponents of controls. As it stands, the council has approved a tax on nonreturnable beverage containers - which is a way to raise revenues but which, unlike a deposit law, does cost the consumer who insists on buying throwaways. The question today is whether the county will proceed with a scheduled deposit requirement. That is the approach that best benefits the consumer, and it deserves the support of sensitive council members.

There have been proposals to use part of the money raised by the tax on nonreturnable containers to establish redemption centers that would supplement stores in handling returnables and deposits This idea has merit; in this way, the county could proceed with a deposit law taking effect early in 1978, along with an expiration date for the tax.

As for sales, some of the smarter industry planners already have seen a chance in this region to capture a good slice of the consumer market by stepping up their sales in returnables - especially since Fairfax and Loudoun counties are now committed to good deposit laws. Careful shoppers throughout Greater Washington are discovering that where stores are will stocked with returnables, selectivity and savings can go hand in hand. Thus, while Montgomery's lawmakers may be concerned that the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville may not go along with the deposit legislation, we have a hunch that there would be no great consumer rush to those cities for the more expensive throwaways.

In the meantime, there is other sensible legislation under consideration in Congress, to enact federal standards that would phase out the costly waste and senseless consumption of energy and natural resources that have been connected with throwaways. There is also a Cabinet-level Resource Conservation Committee that is considering the deposit proposal as a recommendation to president Carter. With his backing, this important conservationmeasure might attract the congressional support it deserves.