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An innovative way to clean up CT litter

“If you want to make a difference in the world, start in your own front yard.”

With those words in 2019, Three Tiers for Connecticut — a coalition of the state’s wine and spirits suppliers, wholesalers and retailers — kicked off our unique program to help make Connecticut’s roadsides, waterways and public spaces litter-free of our containers, particularly the 50 ml “nip” spirits bottles.

In just under three years, we mobilized community cleanups, rolled out a multiplatform consumer education campaign, aptly named “Don’t Trash Connecticut: Nip it in the Bin,” and designed an innovative “nickel-per-nip” program, which was enacted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2021.

How it works: Simple and direct


This first-in-the-nation stewardship program places a 5-cent environmental fee on the sale of each nip container sold in Connecticut. The fees are paid by retailers to wholesalers when they purchase the nips, and then the retailer is made whole when customers pay the 5-cent surcharge at the register in each store.

Then, since studies show that nips are most likely to be consumed and disposed of near the places where they are sold, every April and October, our member wholesalers pay each town where a nip was sold the full equivalent of 5 cents for each nip sold in that municipality over the previous six months.

This April was the first such payment, we are off to a very strong start. I am pleased to report that this innovative program has generated $1.8 million in revenue for Connecticut municipalities to use for anti-litter initiatives and environmental cleanups.

The beauty of the nickel-per-nip program is in its simplicity and direct impact. There are no hidden fees or charges and no complicated take-backs: Each town receives a nickel for each nip sold. In all, 163 Connecticut cities and towns received direct financial assistance to help combat litter.

Municipalities: Now, it’s your turn

There are no two ways about it: this is an exciting time both for our industry and the state of Connecticut, and our members are thrilled that this groundbreaking and collaborative program is off to a great start.

Now that the money generated by the environmental fees is in their hands, our message to mayors, town councils and local leaders is: “Now it’s your turn. Let’s invest this money the right way. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

We are looking to them to use those dollars to keep their roadsides, waterways and public spaces litter-free. In true “Connecticut Yankee” tradition, each city and town has the freedom to do things their own way.

We are encouraging each municipality to use the revenue from this program to enhance and supplement their recycling and litter eradication efforts by, among other things, supporting recycling operations, deploying more recycling or trash receptacles in public spaces, and engaging local organizations for community cleanups. There is no shortage of ideas and ingenuity among the many civic, environmental and service groups across Connecticut, and the towns now have resources commensurate to their sales of nips to help meet the challenge.

This environmental stewardship program can be a national model in helping to curb one of the most common forms of littering, and we’re excited to watch our cities and towns put these nickels to work.

At this rate, we project that the nickel-per-nip program will generate $4 million for Connecticut municipalities by the end of its first full year — and this funding can make a real difference if the cities and towns come through.

Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. is president and treasurer of Three Tiers for Connecticut and executive director of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, Inc.

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