HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Thanks to a new law, Connecticut’s wine and spirits industry is handing out a lot of money to towns. The law aims to clean up all those little liquor bottles that litter streets and parks.

The playground in Bushnell Park in Hartford is often littered with nip bottles, but now that a new state program is kicking into high gear, there is money to help clean up.

Larry Cafero, the executive director of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut Inc. says they sent checks to 163 towns in April.

“We sent out over $1.8 million in nickels if you will,” he said.

A nickel surcharge on those tiny liquor bottles generated the funding. Ninety million of those bottles are sold every year in Connecticut.

The payments are part of the state’s new environmental stewardship program — the “nickel per nip” program — passed by the General Assembly last year. By law, towns must use the revenue for an environmental purpose.

“Whether that’s hiring a recycling coordinator, purchasing receptacles for trash and or recycling, holding community clean-ups,” Cafero added.

The state’s eight wholesalers/distributors collect a nickel from the retailers. Retailers collect a nickel from the consumers at the counter. The wholesalers or distributors pay those nickels directly to the towns where the nips were sold every six months.

Some of the towns with the most return on the nickel per nip include;

  • New Haven – $78,000
  • Hartford – $63,000
  • Manchester – $50,000
  • New Britain – $49,000

By state law, you can only have one package store per 2,500 people. Some towns are dry or don’t have a liquor store. Policymakers say when it comes to things like mattresses, paint, and batteries, there is an environmental surcharge to help get rid of these items safely.

With the nickel program, stores aren’t saddled with returns. Instead, a poster campaign encourages customers to throw the bottles in the bin. The problem with the little liquor bottles is that there are no redemption machines in existence. Only the state of Maine has a program, and they’re washing them by hand.

The next round of checks goes out in October.