Samad Hakani, Photography Editor

Connecticut residents are looking to ban the sale of mini alcohol bottles, commonly known as “nips” or “shooters,” due to how prevalent a pollutant they have become throughout the state.

Since 2021, 179 million shooters have been sold in Connecticut. Due to their small size, the bottles are often littered as consumers quickly down the alcohol and look to get rid of the bottles as fast as possible.

“At the beginning of the year I started collecting them, and they were around every liquor store, at nearly every red light, at many stop signs [and] at the entrances and exits of highways,” Laura Cahn, chair of New Haven’s Environmental Advisory Council, told the News. “People are throwing them out their windows because they don’t want to be caught with an open container and get a ticket.”

Cahn believes that people use the small, disposable bottles to covertly drink while driving because they can easily be thrown out of the window, in comparison to a larger bottle that — if open inside a vehicle — can get drivers into trouble with law enforcement.

Cahn said she has also found the bottles buried in the soil and floating in rivers.

Although cities are currently not authorized to prohibit the sale of nips, in 2021, Connecticut passed its “nickel-per-nip” bill, which places a five-cent surcharge on nips and requires wholesalers to return the five cents to the municipality in which the nip was sold. Each municipality is then supposed to use the money gained from the surcharge for environmental actions that will reduce solid waste and litter. The bill was intended to reduce the environmental impact of the sale of nips without completely banning them.

In two years, the program generated $8.9 million in funding for municipalities to combat litter, with New Haven selling the most nips and generating the most funding. Between April 1, 2023, and Sept. 30, 2023, New Haven sold more than two million nips and generated more than $400,000 in revenue thanks to the “nickel-per-nip” policy. 

Thomas Metzner, a supporter of a bill that would allow towns to ban the sale of shooters and the founder of CT Towns Nixing the Nip, told the News that he began advocating against nips when he picked up about 70 in around ten minutes on a walk in his hometown of Glastonbury.

“I think people began to acknowledge that it wasn’t working,” Metzner said, regarding the “nickel-per-nip” policy. “It’s not really a good policy to allow or tolerate litter, and then go around to pay somebody after to pick it up.”

In February, the Connecticut Legislature’s Environment Committee proposed a bill that would allow individual municipalities to ban the sale of alcohol bottles smaller than 50 milliliters. Rep. Patricia Dillon, who represents a part of New Haven, is one of the bill’s sponsors. Although the bill did not pass out of committee this session, supporters throughout the state have promised to return to the Environment Committee next January to try again.

At the hearing, Larry Cafero, a lobbyist for the CT Wine and Spirits Wholesalers, argued that the sale of alcohol should be regulated at the state level, and that the sale of nips in one town would just cause people to go to the town over to buy nips and bring the litter back.

Others who spoke at the hearing, such as Cassie Folk, who represented Diageo North America, a Norwalk-based beverage manufacturer, pointed out that the five-cent surcharge had generated almost $9 million for Connecticut towns to use to combat litter.

“Currently, there is little oversight and transparency on how this money is being used in municipalities receiving these funds,” Folk wrote in her testimony. “We support strengthening the current law by implementing further oversight and reporting from municipalities.”

Another reason activists are looking to ban the sale of miniature liquor bottles is that they cannot be recycled due to their small size.

According to Cahn, the only thing consumers can do with the small bottles besides litter them is to throw them in the trash, which will then end up in a landfill.

“[Recycling facilities] do not have the capacity for essentially such a small item,” Jeffrey Simon, materials management coordinator at New Haven Solid Waste & Recycling Authority, told the News. “There’s a state law that went into effect where we can’t take them, and they can’t be redeemed. That’s a big bugaboo in the law.”

In 1889, John Power & Son Irish Whiskey became the first spirits company in the world to make miniature bottles.

LILY BELLE POLING
Lily Belle Poling covers climate and the environment. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, she is a first year in Branford College majoring in Global Affairs and English.