THANKS TO A strong legislative effort by Sen. Madison E. Marye, a rural lawmaker from Montgomery County, the Virginia state senate's Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources has approved a bill long sought by consumers, farmers and anybody else who's sick and tired of paying extra for the tons of throwaway glass and metal that are desecrating Virginia's landscape. The measure would bring back returnable containers, with deposits as incentives for conservation. Today, a vote of the full senate is scheduled to test the influence of the trash lobbyists.

As usual, the opponents are frantically hyper-carbonating, asserting that deposits cause prices to go up--it's the other way around, as smart shoppers know--and that "thousands of jobs" would be lost, which, aside from any exaggeration, fails to take into account jobs that are created. Instead, the bottle and can makers prefer systems by which we all pay for throwaways each time and then leave it to some of the manufacturers to offer whatever small rewards they wish for the retrieval of this trash.

The bigger rewards from industries are called political campaign contributions--and they, too, are distributed for later redemption. Still, Sen. Marye is old-fashioned enough to be appealing to some rather fundamental values in seeking enactment of the legislation. "This is not a wild, liberal scheme," he says. "Philosophically--if I can use a word which is certainly not part of my professional vocabulary --it is a conservative bill. It goes to the grass-roots philosophy of America . . . thrift, re-use of resources."

That is why some legislators in both parties have changed their minds in favor of the deposit legislation. Today, voters may see who has, and who still prefers to keep those throwaways coming--and going wherever they land.