The Falmouth Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday, December 9, to send state senators and representatives a letter in support of House Bill 2881, which would require a deposit on nip bottles.
The bill, filed by state Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), updates the “bottle bill” by making “alcoholic beverages sold in miniature,” also know as nips, subject to deposit and refund requirements.
“We felt, and [Rep. Hunt] feels as well, that it really is not going to change much in terms of the littering problem,” Falmouth Litter Reduction Team member Alan Robinson said at the Monday, December 9, board of selectmen meeting. “A 5 cent return on the nips would not get a lot of people to bring them back to the businesses, and the businesses would have to be set up to take them. What Randy said is it would bring further attention to the problem, and further attention to the litter issue, both nips and everything else, we think is valuable.”
If passed the legislation would impose a 5 cents deposit on nip bottles. Noting the legislation sets a minimum refund value of 5 cents, the letter asks it be increased to 25 cents for nip containers.
Selectman Douglas H. Jones asked if the Falmouth Litter Reduction Team supported a ban on the sale of nips in Falmouth. Mr. Robinson said while some members support a ban, at least one opposes it.
Selectmen Chairwoman Megan E. English Braga asked if the Falmouth Litter Reduction Team has worked with local businesses regarding the ongoing littering of nip bottles. Mr. Robinson said the team hosted a listening session earlier this year. Nine of 17 businesses that sell liquor in town attended.
“Some of them brought ideas and suggestions,” he said. The ideas included working with Keep Massachusetts Beautiful to launch a pilot project related to nip litter in Falmouth.
Bryan Anderson, owner of Teaticket Market, said the Massachusetts Package Store Association is working with Keep Massachusetts Beautiful, a chapter of Keep America Beautiful, to change the behavior of people who litter.
“Our approach is there anyway to get businesses, the town and organizations together to try to solve the problem and change that behavior,” Mr. Anderson said. “It is a relatively small percentage of customers that cause the problem, and we run into this ongoing and continuously in the liquor business. Most of our problems come from less than 1 percent of our adult customers.”
He said a ban would not stop people from littering, arguing that if the town bans nips, people will discard different-sized drink containers.
“I walk around the pond where I live, and I pick up nips, and I used to pick them up by the plastic Stop & Shop bagful,” Mr. Anderson said. “Behavioral change is the only way we are going to change it. We can ban nips, but we’ll probably end up picking up 200s and 375s,” he said, referring to larger containers.
Mr. Jones said the problem with nips extends beyond littering.
“For me, it is not just the litter issue,” he said. “It is why nips are being purchased and how they are being used. It is such a convenient thing for someone to be driving and drinking.”
Mr. Anderson said there is a significant number of customers who do not purchase nips for that purpose.
“The percentage that are abusing, I think, if you look at the total number of nips on the ground and the total number sold, is a small percentage,” he said.
He said enforcement of existing regulations could help manage that abuse.
“The truth of the matter is, when is the last time anyone got a fine in Falmouth for littering?” Mr. Anderson said. “When is the last time anyone, unless they were drunk driving, got a fine for an open container? If we get everyone together, we will ask for a little bit of enforcement. That will help change behaviors. I don’t think a ban will every help change behavior.”
Selectmen agreed it is likely a minority of customers causing a problem.
“Most people don’t litter,” Ms. English Braga said. “That is why it is so shocking when you see someone roll their window down and throw something.”
Selectman Douglas C. Brown advocated for increasing the fine for littering.
“I would love to see the littering fine increased,” Mr. Brown said. “On my trip to Ireland, I saw a sign in Galway that said the fine for littering was 2,000 pounds. That alone, just having a sign, could be a deterrent. I think we should increase the fine and start having some enforcement.”
Mr. English Braga agreed a sign can make a difference.
“We did that in Wood Rise, because Wood Rise was a cut-through for everyone, and we were just a nip collection neighborhood,” she said.