If D.C. voters approve ballot Initiative 28 on Tuesday, they will be forcing themselves and local merchants to change long-held habits of disposing of the approximately 330 million beverage cans and bottles bought annually in the city.
The ballot measure would require cash deposits of varying amounts, depending on the size of the container, on purchases of soft drinks, beer, carbonated water, mineral water and wine coolers.
Other drinks -- such as juices, wine and hard liquor -- would not be covered by the law because they are delivered to stores by different types of distribution systems.
Customers would have to pay a 5-cent deposit for each 12-ounce can or bottle purchased, a 10-cent deposit for a one-liter container and 20 cents for a two-liter container.
Customers would get the deposit back when they return the bottles or cans, but they would not have to return them to the same retailer from which they bought them.
Instead, they could return them to any retailer selling the same brand and size of beverage.
Under the measure, a store is required to pay deposit amounts to customers on beverage containers of the same size and brand that it carries -- but not on other brands and sizes.
For example, if a store does not carry Brand X and chooses not to redeem its bottles and cans, it is not required to pay deposits on that brand.
City retailers would be required to pay the 5-cent to 20-cent deposits only on cans and bottles bought in the city.
D.C. bottles and cans would be labeled with a stamp or sticker saying they are designated for sale here.
Vending machines and street vendors selling soft drinks would be required to post small signs stating the location of the nearest store providing deposits for each of the types of drinks sold. Street vendors would not be required to accept returns.
The measure would lead to a grocery store or other retailer paying the 5-cent to 20-cent deposits to the wholesale beverage distributors when shipments are delivered to the store.
In turn, when the distributors pick up the empties at the store, they pay the retailer the deposits, plus a "handling fee" of 2 cents per container to help defray the costs to the store of coping with the bottles and cans.
The idea behind the measure is that the distributors would sell the containers to recyclers of glass, plastic and aluminum. But they will not receive anything close to the 5- to 20-cent price the distributor paid per container.
Under the measure -- which would go into effect July 15, 1988 -- it would be a misdemeanor for distributors or retailers to fail to accept returns that they are obliged to accept, the initiative organizers said.
The legislation does not address the manner in which a store is to accept the returned containers and refund the deposits, or the area of the store to be set aside for the transaction.