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People like the idea, it is environmentally sound, it would reduce the amount of trash in garbage dumps and it would help clean up the landscape. So why has it been impossible to get a vote in Congress on a "bottle bill" imposing a deposit fee on returnable beverage containers?

For 15 years, such bills have been introduced regularly in Congress and just as regularly have never gotten anywhere, despite the fact that they make eminently good sense.But this year may finally be an exception. Backers say a national bottle bill may come to a vote this summer. Let's hope it passes.

For years, all kinds of people have been urging voluntary recycling programs for bottles and drink containers. But the goal of recycling 70 percent of all such containers has never been achieved nationwide.

However, in states that have their own system of deposit fees, 85 to 95 percent of all such containers are returned instead of being thrown away. States with their own bottle bills all report less litter, cleaner roadsides and less pressure on their landfills.

On a national scale, an 85 percent return rate would save an estimated 6.6 million tons of the 7.8 million tons of containers now thrown away yearly in the United States.

The proposed national bottle bill has suggested a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers, a deposit that is 100 percent refundable. The only losers would be those who failed to return the containers. There would still be enough of them that the deposit would produce an estimated $1.7 billion that could be distributed to the states for waste management expenses.

The measure has been opposed by major bottlers. And certainly there would be some inconvenience. But that already is a part of voluntary recycling efforts. A deposit bill would simply add a financial incentive. Everybody would win except those who didn't turn in containers. And they would be helping to pay for the problem such throwaway containers cause.

Congress should adopt a bottle bill. It works. Just ask the states that have such laws.