Each year the average American discards 135 bottles and 250 cans.
Of this refuse, beverage containers alone make up 7 percent of the mountain of waste that accumulates in the U.S.So rapidly, in fact, is such waste accumulating that 27 states expect to run out of landfill disposal sites within a decade.
What does it all mean? Simply that Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon wasn't just being stubborn recently when he re-introduced in Congress a long-ignored nationwide bottle bill.
Despite its name, a bottle bill would apply to metal and well as glass beverage containers. It would impose a small deposit, usually around five cents, on each such container as an inducement not to discard but to recycle them.
Though bottle bills are resisted on the grounds that consumers find them inconvenient and merchants find them costly, the objections just don't hold water. In the nine states with bottle laws so far, beverage sales haven't suffered, roadside litter has sharply declined, and new jobs have been created, mostly at bottle redemption centers.
A few years ago, an arm of Congress called the General Accounting Office studied such laws and concluded: "Beverage container litter is reduced at least 80 percent. Solid waste is reduced about 5 percent."
Those figures should become more impressive as suitable landfill areas become harder to find and more trash washes up on America's shores as a result. Whether the legislating is done at the state or national level, the bottle bill is an idea whose time finally ought to have come.