Nip it in the bud

Nips continue to be a huge issue on the Island, but several local businesses are offering incentives to get them picked up and recycled. — Lara O'Brien

It’s become the buzz of the Island, or at least the Islanders Talk Facebook page.

Nips. Empty tiny booze bottles, that is, tossed on the side of the roads, in parking lots, and in the sand on the beaches.

Several businesses are trying to raise awareness of the nip mess, including Sharky’s Cantina in Edgartown, which is offering a “Cinco de Nip-o” incentive to its customers. Bring a minimum of 50 empties to the restaurant between 2 and 5 pm daily and get five cents credit per bottle. That’s $2.50 off your tacos and enchiladas, if you’re keeping score at home.

The impetus for the incentive is a girl named Piper Blau. “My daughter and mother-in-law were out doing the beach cleanup on Earth Day,” J.B. Blau, Piper’s dad and the owner of Sharky’s, told The Times. “My 10-year-old came home talking about nips. She saw so many, and picked up dozens of them. She was disgusted.”

Mr. Blau decided there was something he could do through his restaurant in Edgartown.

“We talked about it, and said we should give people money,” he said. “We should give people credit to the restaurant.”

The idea caught on, and now the Toy Box of Vineyard Haven is also offering the same credit to its customers who drop off nips at Sharky’s.

“As a person who loves walking on the Vineyard, it’s an obvious thing we have to figure out,” said BeeBee Horowitz, owner of the Toy Box, which is offering a similar five cent per-nip incentive (50 minimum) for nips returned to Sharky’s in Edgartown. “I have to credit my son, Michael [Kendall], who brought it to my attention,” she said. “It was at his impetus.”

Mr. Kendall saw a Facebook post, and urged his mom to join in the effort. “It’s a natural for kids,” she said. “They get a little money off at the Toy Box, and they can start thinking about why they’re getting that discount.”

Greg Politz, manager of Edgartown Bicycles, knew from his own experience just how much of a problem the discarded nip bottles are. “Every time I walk my dog I see a dozen of them,” he said.

When he saw Sharky’s incentive, he offered bike helmets as another way to encourage the cleanup efforts. “When I saw how many people were collecting, I told him I had to cap it at 20 helmets,” Mr. Politz said.

The first week was a little slow, with so much rain, Mr. Blau said. “It’s not been great nip-picking weather,” he said. So he’s extending his offer through the weekend of May 13, he said.

MV Wine and Spirits first came up with the concept of an incentive for folks who cleaned up the roadside litter. The Edgartown store was accepting all types of litter — milk bottles, soda, beer cans, etc. — though owner Brion McGroarty acknowledged it was nips, thousands of them, that dominated the trash brought to the store.

As a result, the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena is getting a $2,500 check from from Mr. McGroarty.

“Everybody goes out and walks and complains about what they see by the side of the road,” Mr. McGroarty said. “Unfortunately, people throw small-size containers out the window.”

Mr. McGroarty’s store sells the nips, so there’s some sense of responsibility for what he and others see out on the road. “The thing we advocate is for legislators to get together and assign a value to these things,” he said.

As The Times reported April 19, State Representative Dylan Fernandes has filed a bill seeking to add a 5 cent deposit to the tiny bottles, spurred on by local advocate Paul Doherty.

Like bottles and cans, which carry a 5 cent deposit, a deposit on nips might erase some of the problem, Mr. McGroarty said: “It couldn’t hurt.”

Mr. Doherty of Vineyard Haven admits he has made collecting the tiny bottles a bit of an obsession. He’s happy to see others joining the bandwagon.

“In the past weekend, I collected another 300. It’s awful,” Mr. Doherty said. “I can’t look away from it. This Island is so fragile, we need to do something.”