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Should Miniature Bottles (Nips) Have A 5-Cent Deposit?

Tackling The Litter Problem

Geographic results

Massachusetts State Representative Jack Lewis is asking his 7th Middlesex District constituents whether or not they would support legislation adding a new five cent deposit on miniature alcohol “nip” bottles. Such a proposal would act as an amendment to the 1983 “Bottle Bill” that allows citizens to return select beverage containers to certified retailers for a minimum of five cents.

The system works as follows: retailers pay a five cent deposit to distributors (such as Coca Cola or Anheuser-Busch) for every bottle they purchase. When the retailer sells one of those bottles to a consumer, the consumer pays a five cent deposit to the retailer. After washing and returning the bottle to the retailer, the consumer is refunded their five cents. The retailer then ships the bottles back to the distributor for reuse, and the distributor refunds the five cents to the retailer, often along with a few additional cents to cover shipping. More information on how bottle bills work can be found at BottleBill.org.

The measure is intended as a means of reducing litter in Ashland and Framingham by incentivizing consumers to return their “nip” bottles, or even pick up any stray bottles they see on the ground.

Disclaimer: These results are not statistically significant due to the selective ability to respond and share. However, the quantity of responses and comments provide insight into overall sentiment, top concerns, and interest in this proposal.

A Show Of Support

Survey response data

256 responses were recorded, along with 30 comments.

70% of respondents signaled their support, indicating that they approve of the deposit.

20% selected no, opposing the proposed measure.

10% of respondents indicated that they are unsure or feel they do not have enough information to make a decision.

With a 70% majority, most respondents are in favor of the new deposit. “Deposit may encourage less litter on the side of the roads. Let's try it and see if it works. If not, then it can be rescinded later on,” said one respondent. “The [five cent] deposit is a good solution to tackle a litter problem with nips rather than a ban on sales as other communities have taken as a solution,” added another.

Many of those who oppose the measure point to curbside recycling as a solution. One respondent said, “Now that [curbside] recycling is readily available in most communities, which we already pay for with our tax dollars, we should not add additional deposits but work to get rid of bottle and can deposits.” Another commented, “With availability of curbside recycling available today, we should also eliminate the $.05 deposit on aluminum cans and glass bottles.”

Lost In Translation

One of the biggest takeaways from the feedback collected by Involved is that some 7th District residents seem to misunderstand the question. While this measure would simply add a five cent deposit on “nip” bottles––meaning consumers can redeem them for cash at certified retailers––many seem to incorrectly tie the term “deposit” with taxation.

“A lot of us wish that the nips did not exist, since they are usually used for unhealthy purposes. Adding a nickel to the price will probably have no impact on consumption. That being the case, the state might as well get some revenue from this source,” said another respondent.

Another asked, “How would that tax money be used?” One simply said, “Taxation is theft.”

While the deposit system does require consumers to pay 5 additional cents up front, it is not a tax. The state does not receive any money from the transaction, and the 5 cents can be recouped by later returning the purchased container.

These responses indicate a need for legislators to better communicate to their constituents what the Bottle Bill does, and how this proposal would affect them.

A Statewide Question

Similar proposals have gained traction elsewhere in Massachusetts. State Representative Randy Hunt of Sandwich proposed an identical measure that would add a five cent deposit in 2017, though it did not pass. However, the measure did gain the support of Framingham’s Select Board, per Metro West Daily News. Elsewhere in New England, Maine passed a measure adding a five cent deposit on nip bottles in 2017. Despite Rep. Hunt’s proposal being rejected in 2018, it seems this hotly contested question will continue to permeate Massachusetts politics.

As Representative Lewis weighs his decision, he remains confident in his methods. "Polling my constituents through Involved is the easiest and fastest way to know where my community is on an issue. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for the number of people who participate."

Caleb McDermott