By Barbara Taormina
City Councillors this week unanimously backed and passed a resolve to have the city’s legislative delegation pursue a new five-cent bottle deposit on nips, flasks and other miniature containers for alcohol.
“Anyone who lives near a liquor store or package store knows that nips are pervasive in our community,” said Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley, who sponsored the resolve. “They are thrown all over the street, the sidewalks, in our yards, and when it rains, they end up in our culverts, the Malden River and eventually in Boston Harbor.”
O’Malley, who has heard complaints about discarded nips from many residents, said the empty bottles are an ecological problem that compromises the cleanliness of the city. He stressed he is not seeking a ban on nips, but rather a five-cent deposit on the bottles.
“If you find a million of these nips in your front yard like I do on Main Street, you can bring them to a liquor store and get five cents each for them,” he said. “It’s been pretty effective with other bottles, and I think it will be effective here.”
Councillors were quick to jump on board with the idea. Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy was the first to ask O’Malley if she could be added as a cosponsor of the resolve, and ultimately it was decided that the entire council would sponsor the request to Malden’s state lawmakers. “I constantly have nip bottles in front of my house,” Murphy said, adding that one of her constituents managed to collect 38 empty nips during a short walk around the neighborhood.
“They are just a blight on the city,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier to see something like this because kids and people will pick them up, and at least they’ll get a little bit of money for them. I think it’s a great idea.”
The Massachusetts Bottle Bill, which requires a five-cent deposit on containers of carbonated beverages, has been around since 1983. Four years ago, a ballot question asking Massachusetts residents to expand the bottle bill to include containers of noncarbonated beverages, such as water, iced tea and juice, went down in flames with 73 percent of voters rejecting the proposal.
The bottle bill has never been popular with retailers and food and beverage industry groups, which in the past have argued that deposits, refunds and the collection of empty containers are a burden on businesses. More recently, anti–bottle bill forces have argued that most communities now have curbside recycling and people prefer that system of recycling beverage bottles and cans.
But Councillor-at-Large Steve Winslow doesn’t think many nips end up in curbside recycling bins. Winslow, who has done a lot of community cleanups along the bike trail and the river, said that empty nips are a persistent problem. “People who use nips tend to just throw them away,” he said. “To change that behavior, I think you do need a deposit.”
Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora called the proposal for a deposit on nips and other small containers for alcoholic beverages a “great endeavor.” “Now, if we could tie this to scratch tickets, I think we could be on to something,” he said.