Little Island, big nip problem

Every morning Paul Doherty finds 45 to 75 empty nips on his walk.

Paul Doherty stands with nips to be recycled, which he gathered on his daily walks. —Lara O'Brien

Paul Doherty is a committee of one. His mission? To grow awareness of the big nip and litter problem on-Island, and try to eliminate bottles that are strewn in bushes, enter our water, and litter the coastal paths all over our beautiful Vineyard.

Paul has published letters in both Island newspapers highlighting the issue, and has opened dialogue with the Vineyard Conservation Society and Vineyard politicians to explore a community resolution. He has seen and heard the conversation and outrage regarding nip bottle litter grow on public forums such as Islanders Talk, and people’s commentary in the newspapers. He welcomes liquor shops’ efforts, such as Our Market, which posts signs at the checkout asking patrons to dispose of their bottles properly.

Paul, a tall man with a gentle and busy nature, retired and moved to the Vineyard in 2013. Each morning he walks his dogs, and regularly collects between 45 and 75 bottles in 45 minutes around West and East Chop. He picks up wherever he walks, and sees trends along the roadways and bushes that tell the story of a quick alcohol infusion and easy-to-throw polluting bottles, and recognizes the triple whammy of driving, drinking, and throwing.

Paul is not alone in addressing this growing problem. This Earth Day, brothers Brion and Jack McGroarty of MV Wine and Spirits and the Tin Hanger restaurant are holding an annual cleanup called MV Nice 4 Ice at their storefront at 17 Airport Road on Saturday, April 22, from 9 am to 2 pm.

Brion, Paul, and Pete Lambos, spokesperson for the M.V. Ice Arena, all came together at MV Wine and Spirits to discuss the problem. They will partner this year, and the McGroartys will donate 5 cents toward the Ice Arena’s rebuild for every bottle returned. Pete would like to see our skating kids and our hockey teams getting the message out that littering is not cool, and everyone is encouraged to get out there with bags and join in the environmental and beautification efforts.

“The concept of this event is great: Families are cleaning the Island and helping the arena at the same time,” said Pete, “and there are incentives.” There is an hour of ice time with a party, as a grand prize for the person who brings in the most returns. Kids can team up, the high school kids are invited; there is no age limit. There are other door prizes, and for the first year, Fireball, Smirnoff, and Jim Beam have all donated or given prizes as part of the cleanup effort.

The Vineyard is not alone; towns all over the commonwealth are experiencing the nip litter problem. While some towns propose banning the bottles, others agree that a state-regulated deposit on each bottle seems to be the way forward. Brion and Paul also believe that a deposit is the answer. For Paul, the higher the money back for each empty nip, the more quickly we will see the problem disappear.

Paul has met twice with Rep. Dylan Fernandes about this issue. The last time they spoke, Mr. Fernandes, with a co-sponsor from the Cape, was going to submit an amendment to the bottle bill that would place a deposit on nips.

“Every Islander who has taken a walk or gone on a bike ride has witnessed the unpleasant sight of nip bottles carelessly thrown on the side of the road,” said Mr. Fernandes. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Paul Doherty to address this issue, and I am the co-sponsor of a newly filed bill at the State House that adds a 5 cent deposit to nip bottles.”

Paul is passionate about his volunteer work. He moved to the Vineyard in 2013 from New York where he was working as an actor after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. But after living here for a little over year he discovered that the tumor had been misdiagnosed — it was actually scar tissue from a previous surgery.

“Suddenly, I was given a new lease on life, and I decided to concentrate on the things I really loved. I love seniors, so I decided to drive for Vineyard Village. I also joined several other nonprofits (Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Island Community Chorus, and Featherstone Center for the Arts) so that I could give back to the community. I also care greatly about our environment … and I especially love the beauty of this Island. That’s why I started picking up these plastic nip bottles.”