SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – They may be small in size, but miniature liquor bottles or “nips” are becoming a huge problem in western Massachusetts.

The Connecticut River Stormwater Committee, facilitated by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, just reported alarming numbers from its “Source to Sea Cleanup” efforts. Over 16,000 nips have been recovered from the Connecticut River over the past five years, but experts say there could be more.

“And that’s the floor… and we think the ceiling of what that number could possibly be is double, triple… quadruple that figure,” said Pat Beaudry of the PVPC.

Nips are not recyclable in Massachusetts because their small size causes sorting machines to jam. Several cities and towns across the state have banned the sale of nips as a way to control litter in streets and public spaces, and to prevent the clogging of storm drains and polluting streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and the oceans. They also pose a hazard to wildlife that can become entangled in plastics or eat them, increasing the risk of death.

Beaudry told 22News that often times nip bottles are tossed out of car windows and begin to buildup on roadways to then wash into the river during rainfall or snow-melt.

“It’s not getting better… and it’s certainly trending in a bad direction,” said Beaudry. Adding that the long term environmental affects are raising concerns.

“Overtime these bottles break down and release micro-plastics that contaminates our waterways… they can be ingested by fish and birds and other wildlife,” Beaudry explained.

PVPC Chief Environmental Planner Patty Gambarini shared, “To local Departments of Public Works officials, regional planners, and environmental advocates, the fix is simple – toss nip bottles into the trash bin.”

The Connecticut River Stormwater Committee, a partnership that includes 19 Massachusetts communities and the University of Massachusetts and facilitated by the PVPC, says the best way the public can help is to properly dispose of empty nip bottles. 

The next Source to Sea Cleanup takes place this September. To volunteer and for more information, click here.