Local merchant turns trash into cash

Discarded nip bottles have become a blight on the Island.

As single-use plastic bag bans proliferate and grassroots cleanup efforts spring up with increasing frequency, MV Wine & Spirits proprietor Brion (Older) McGroarty has added a new wrinkle to the growing green movement on Martha’s Vineyard.

This past Saturday, Mr. McGroarty turned litter into largess by donating a dime for every piece of litter brought to a dumpster located at the MV Wine & Spirits parking lot, located off the entrance road to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport adjacent to Flatbread restaurant. The result: a $1,200 donation to the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club.

“We got the idea on Earth Day last year, and we wrote it on the calendar,” Mr. McGroarty told The Times. “Originally, we were thinking about a 5 cent donation for every nip bottle, and it snowballed from there. It made more sense to make a 10 cent donation for any trash people brought in. I’m glad we did. They certainly didn’t have any trouble finding any.”

Mr. McGroarty said about 20 or so adults and their children made deposits in the dumpster. “It was great to see parents and kids doing this together,” he said. “They were really enthusiastic.”

Locating litter can also be lucrative. Mr. McGroarty said Jen Fiore, Heather Boyle, and Tyler Boyle found a $20 bill along the side of the road. In the spirit of the day, they donated the money. “They said ‘What the heck,’ and turned it over to the Boys & Girls Club,” Mr. McGroarty wrote in an email to The Times. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

This year’s effort also got a boost from LoveMV, a local volunteer group founded by Constance Messmer of Chilmark. “We were going around to all the liquor stores, asking them to post a sign that asked people not to litter with their nip bottles,” Ms. Messmer told The Times. “Brion said, ‘We’ll do you one better,’ and said he was sponsoring this cleanup.”

Mr. McGroarty said ABC Disposal Service generously donated the dumpster for the cause.

“We’re really grateful [Mr. McGroarty] did this,” Peter Lambos, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said. “We’ll probably put the donation toward the afterschool program. It costs us $300,000 a year, and it costs $20 for a kid to go there. We try to make it up with donations and grants, but we have a pretty significant shortfall.”

Mr. Lambos said he and his young twin sons also participated in the cleanup, and filled “two large buckets in no time” near his home on Franklin Avenue. He intends for the Boys & Girls Club to have a more active role in next year’s Earth Day event. “It’s no secret when you drive around that litter is a big problem here,” he said. “Next year, we can promote this more, maybe ask kids to collect during vacation week and bring it in on Saturday. A big part of this is instilling a sense of responsibility in the kids. Hopefully it’ll cut down on litter when they get older.”

Mr. McGroarty said MV Wine & Spirits is making the Earth Day cleanup an annual event.“We want to do a better job publicizing it next year,” he said. “School vacation week complicated things a bit. But this is the right time of year to do it, before all the plants are in bloom and while the trash is still visible.”

Ms. Messmer said LoveMV will also support next year’s effort. “Sometimes the litter problem can feel overwhelming, but we have to take action,” she said. “We can’t just complain.”

Corrected Friday, April 29 – A previous version of this article stated that MV Wine & Spirits paid for the dumpster. It was donated by ABC Disposal Service. Mr. Lambos has twin sons, not twin daughters.