Ssshhhh, don’t tell our friends at the Inquirer and Mirror or the Nantucket Current, but we found ourselves a little envious of Nantucket’s town meeting last week.
No, not because they discussed and approved topless bathing on town beaches, and just slightly because they only had to deal with one town meeting to get the Island’s business done. (We just concluded our sixth town meeting this week with Aquinnah voters, and had four town meetings in one night on April 12.)
The issue that left us jealous was Nantucket’s decision to ban nips — those insidious plastic bottles that so often find themselves discarded in parking lots, on our beaches, and at our parks.
They are like the cigarette butts of our time.
It’s hard to find a good reason why nips are needed. Based on where they’re discarded, it would seem like it might improve public safety to ban them. Alcohol and driving don’t mix.
Five years ago, Paul Doherty tried to raise awareness of the nip issue on the Island. At the time, he told Lara O’Brien that he would find 45 to 75 of the tiny bottles on his walk every day. A few weeks later, with social media buzzing about the issue, Island restaurateur J.B. Blau held a “cinco-de-nipo” contest for his customers as incentive to pick up discarded nip bottles. He was inspired by his daughter, who had picked up a bunch of the bottles during an Earth Day beach cleanup.
The issue quickly faded back into the woodwork, even as the litter problem persisted. The legislature has looked at adding the nip bottles to the bottle bill, with the idea that a 5 cent deposit might be an incentive for people to not discard them. But the bills have gone nowhere, while the nip bottles continue to pile up.
The issue briefly surfaced again in 2018. At that time, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, told The Times, “People across the state are coming out of winter hibernation and noticing nip bottles carelessly strewn on their walking trails, bike paths, and roadways, and at the State House I’ve joined Sandwich Rep. Randy Hunt in renewing our push for a deposit on nip bottles. Frankly, I think we should ban single-use plastics because they are overflowing our landfills and devastating our ocean ecosystems, but moving forward on a nip deposit is a good step in reducing litter and promoting recycling.”
Hunt has since moved on from Beacon Hill, but the blight of nip bottles remains an issue on the Island and elsewhere.
In a text message this week, Rep. Fernandes wrote that a bill is currently before the legislature’s energy committee. But given the inaction since Hunt first introduced the bill several years ago, we shouldn’t wait for the State House to act. “Towns can just ban them too,” Fernandes said. “That’s what Falmouth did.”
Falmouth, now Nantucket, and also Wareham have taken matters into their own hands. There’s precedent. So what is the Island waiting for?
It wouldn’t take as big an effort as it was for Plastic Free MV kids to ban single-use plastic water bottles under 34 ounces, since the only liquor stores on the Island are in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
In an email to The Times this week, Doherty said he continues to find nips every day. “I have never stopped picking them up! They seem to be worse than ever. My best friend lives on Nantucket, and I called him to congratulate them on passing the ban, and explaining that we couldn’t even get a 5 cent deposit on them here,” Doherty wrote. “He went to the meeting where they discussed this, and there was very little opposition to the ban. Not sure why more people on this Island, who see these nips along the sides of the roads every day just like I do, aren’t more outraged!”
So what are we waiting for? Let’s follow Nantucket’s lead, and nip this problem in the bud.