Instead of fighting a 10 cent deposit on “nip” containers the wine and spirit industry want to create a two-part stewardship plan. 

Nips are those small 50 ml containers of alcohol that litter the road sides and find their way into rivers and streams. There are over 85 million nips sold in Connecticut each year.

The industry, which includes suppliers, wholesalers, and package store retailers, said in a letter to lawmakers Monday that they want to be part of the solution. 

They said if the legislature enacts a nickel surcharge or eco-fee on the nips starting October 1, 2021 then each wine and spirit wholesaler can remit a nickel-per-nip payment to the municipality where the nip was sold in the preceding six months. It plans to distribute nearly $4.5 million to cities and towns. 

Customers would not need to return the nips to the package stores in order for the towns to receive the money.

The second part of the program would be the creation of a task force to study the issue of bottle deposits on things like wine and spirit bottles. 

Connecticut currently has a nickel bottle deposit on beer, soda and noncarbonated beverages. Only about 50% of those are redeemed — the lowest level of states that have bottle laws, officials said. The $43 million from the unredeemed containers goes to the state’s general fund.

This eco-fee program would be totally separate from the deposit program and would be a privately operated nickel deposit fee on nip containers.

In March, the legislature’s Environment Committee shelved the idea of adding a 10 cent deposit to wine and spirit bottles earlier this year when it forwarded the bottle bill to the Senate. 

The bill calls for the state Energy and Environmental Protection Department to reach a memorandum of agreement with industry stakeholders. The agreement will need to provide for the processing of 80% of wine and liquor bottles in Connecticut and be presented to the committee by Jan. 15, 2022. 

The industry is hoping to create a task force which would include leadership of the Environment Committee and representatives of the industry. The industry wants to make sure that until this task force issues their recommendations, wine and spirits products will not be included in the current bottle deposit program. 

Sen. Christine Cohen, who co-chairs the Environment Committee, has said she was hopeful the memorandum of agreement would identify a way to get the wine and liquor bottles out of the state’s waste stream. Currently, the bottles represent a significant burden on towns, she said. 

“This is something that many of our taxpayers don’t recognize because it’s sort of folded in– these waste costs are folded into budget line items but tipping fees are on the rise and they are … costing municipalities and therefore our taxpayers a lot of money,” she said. “We’re hearing overwhelmingly from our municipalities they’re at a breaking point and we must act now.”

During a public hearing lawmakers applauded the addition of nips to the bottle deposit program because maybe it would make people think twice about littering them. 

Rep. Kenneth Gucker, D-Danbury, has said paying a 10 cent deposit might curb the attitude of residents who currently discard the little bottles on the ground. 

“Maybe instead of them throwing it out the window of the car, they might put them in a trash bag or might put them in the recycling bag and bring them back and maybe start to think of the rest of us don’t spend our afternoons picking up the little red caps from the Fireball bottles,” he said.

Environmentalists say the proposal would do nothing to get nips off the street and into the recycling stream.

“This plan may sound nice on the surface but we should be very clear that this literally does nothing to get at the problem of litter from nips and other containers that blight our urban centers,” Louis Burch, program director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said. “This is little more than a thinly veiled effort to derail our Bottle bill (S.B. 1037) which would establish a refundable deposit on nips and non-carbonated beverages (which we know is effective at reducing litter and can save towns millions on recycling!)”

The deposit bill has been on the Senate calendar since April 21.