Utahns strongly support a drive to mandate a 5-cent deposit and refund on all beverage bottles and cans, according to a survey by University of Utah students.

A whopping majority of Utahns - 77 percent - would support such a bill in the Legislature, intended to encourage recycling of bottles and beverage cans, says the survey, conducted by U. psychology students. Fewer than 16 percent voiced any reservations about the bill.Carol Werner, the psychology professor whose students conducted the survey, said the results should boost the attempt next year to get a bottle-deposit bill through the Legislature.

"What I find fascinating is that this bill has been through the Legislature," failing each time, she said. "It's always been stymied by the bottling companies and the grocery stores. The people want it."

In October, the students, working through the U.'s Survey Research Center, completed a survey with 385 Utahns statewide. The survey has a 5 percent margin of error.

The question was, "Would you favor or oppose a state law requiring all soft drinks and beer to be sold in refundable bottles and cans? You would pay a 5-cent deposit but would get that back when you returned the container."

An overwhelming majority - more than 77 percent - said they would strongly favor or somewhat favor such a recycling bill. Only 7.3 percent were strongly opposed, while 8.1 percent somewhat opposed it.

Werner said grocery stores should support the bill as part of their well-publicized efforts to be more environmentally aware. Hunters like it because it would reduce trash in the outdoors.

"There's broad-based support for this bill," she added. "I would just like to see people support it in the Legislature."

Next year's legislative effort on behalf of a bottle bill will be spearheaded by Rep. Jerrold Jensen, R-Salt Lake, who thinks the bill will be heavily debated.

"I was a little surprised, and pleased, by the survey results," he told the Deseret News. "Frankly, they showed a little higher acceptance of it than I expected."

A bill that was introduced last year by another lawmaker "never went anywhere," he said. It got bottled up in the Rules Committee.

"The objection from the bottle manufacturers is that they just don't want to go through the hassle of collecting the deposits and refunding the deposits," Jensen said. In addition, local grocers don't want to bother with the bottle refund measure either.

"They don't want to be a deposit center for used and empty bottles and cans. They don't want to provide the space and they don't want to provide the sanitation that goes with keeping those used and empty bottles."

Jensen said he thought the concerns of the grocers are more legitimate than those of the bottling companies.

Under his bill, the nickle deposit would be required for any bottle, can or plastic container sold containing soft drinks or beer. It would be refunded when the customer returns the empty to the store.