2017-02-23 / Editorial

Deposit on nips bottles proposed

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

I have to confess I did not know the term “nips” bottles until recently. But now I see the problem. These little bottles – small one ounce liquor bottles conveniently located next to the register at stores– are everywhere. In fact, nips bottles are a significant litter problem statewide. They are found on the side of the road in rural areas. They’re everywhere in our downtowns, crushed up against curbs and clogging our storm drains. They’re definitely not just on the airplane anymore.

Fortunately, we have a solution. A group of five legislators from both sides of the aisle, including myself, have joined a proposal to include these bottles in the bottle deposit.

The bottle deposit is a proven mechanism to reduce litter. Maine is one of 10 bottle deposit states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont are the others). However, here in Maine containers 50ml and smaller are excluded from the bottle deposit for some reason. That includes nips bottles. The state’s liquor control board, which sells all of the liquor in the state of Maine, projects that 12 million of these little bottles will be sold in 2017. (Some trivia: by far the biggest seller in the nips category is Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.)

I do understand that the bottle deposit system we have today is not perfect, but it is the most effective anti-litter tool we have. There will be a variety of challenges to adding these small bottles to our system. Since they are so small, the bags we use today to collect bottles at redemption centers may be too large – they’ll hold too many bottles and be too heavy. It is also my understanding that services such as Clynk do not today have equipment that can handle the small containers, and reverse vending machines cannot accept them. In terms of market size, Maine is a comparatively small state, and the bottles need to be stickered, possibly by hand at first, creating its own set of challenges. However, I’m convinced that with sensible policy work, we can take on an important problem and maybe even create increased state revenue at the same time.

In the Legislature, we work on a variety of issues big and small, and you could certainly push back and say we should be focusing on larger, tougher issues like the opiates crisis, and you’d be right. You could say also that people should not be drinking these nips in the car and throwing them out the window, and you’d again be right. However, nips bottles are clearly creating a very significant litter problem for our cities and towns. I look forward to working with the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and my co-sponsors to develop a sensible policy to address this significant and growing problem. As always, if you have thoughts or ideas, either for or against, I’d be pleased to hear them at martin. grohman@legislature.maine.gov or at 283-1476.

Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford) is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chairman of the Solid Waste Commission in Biddeford, and the owner of a small company called Hellocycle which does alkaline battery recycling by mail.

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