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Maine House Strongly Supports Putting Deposit on Miniature Liquor Bottles

A.J. Higgins
Maine Public file photo
Jeffrey Seney, manager of Burby & Bates in Orono, with two handfuls of 50 milliliter bottles of Fireball whiskey.

For decades Maine has had a bottle redemption system for soda, beer and liquor bottles to encourage recycling and prevent littering of those containers. Now the Maine House has voted to expand the deposit law to include small liquor bottles called nips.

Rep. Richard Campbell, a Republican from Orrington, lives near a local store and says he’s surprised by the number of empty bottles and cans he finds scattered across his yard.

“It’s not so much litter, but it’s the distance from picking it up at the store and depositing it in oneself and then throwing it out the window,” he says.

Campbell says he has been able to put away $450 in a savings account for his young grandson from the deposits on beer and soda containers he collects near the house. He is among those state lawmakers who testified in favor expanding the bottle deposit law to include nips, little bottles that hold less than 50 milliliters and have been growing in popularity.

Because there is no deposit on them, nips have been causing an emerging litter problem.

Rep. Jonathan Kinney, a Republican from Limington, says he would rather use the price tag — more than $1 million — to implement the legislation on other litter control strategies.

“We have an overall problem with trash pollution. I believe a broader positive environmental effect could result from looking at other approaches to litter prevention,” he says.

Kinney says that creative advertising campaigns might be more effective in convincing people not to litter.

Rep. Christopher Babbidge, a Democrat from Kennebunk, says the state also has a drinking problem, and he wishes the measure would discourage alcohol consumption, but acknowledges that it probably would not.

“The bill before us, the motion before us, is not going to discourage purchase, much to my dismay,” he says. “But it is environmentally sound and it is a baby step in the right direction.”

If given final approval, the bottles would join the long list of glass, metal and plastic beverage containers that have been added to the bottle deposit law since it was first passed in 1978.

Gov. Paul LePage has not expressed an opinion on the legislation, but the support in the House shows that the measure may have the votes to withstand a veto.