Local cities and towns struggling with the litter problem caused by discarded miniature liquor bottles — better known as nips — can look at a neighbor to the south as a test case.

The City of Chelsea banned the sale of the 50 milliliter bottles awhile back, and many city officials are claiming success in their efforts to rid the streets of discarded empties.

“It’s been over a year since that ban was put in place and the results are in — the impact of the ban is overwhelmingly positive,” Chelsea City Councilor Roy Avellaneda told CommonWealth Magazine. “Just look at the numbers.”

Some of those numbers are anecdotal, of course. Counting the number of nip bottles in city gutters is an impossible task. In the year since the bottle ban, however, there are few to none to be found on Chelsea streets. What’s more, city officials have noted a remarkable 66% drop in alcohol-related ambulance and firefighter responses.

Such results may be eye-opening for communities such as Salem and Gloucester, which are slowly working through their own plans for dealing with the issue, including calling on the state to add a 5-cent deposit on the tiny bottles. But there are other factors to consider. Chelsea officials also worked with the Massachusetts Package Store Association to offer training to store owners, and created a “do not sell” list of people who had recently been taken into protective custody by the police.

Those last two measures may have done more to solve the public drunkenness problem than an outright ban on nip sales, the Package Store Association’s Robert Mellion told CommonWealth, as customers denied the smaller bottles can merely buy a larger size. The association is helping Chelsea store owners appeal the ban on nips sales.

But there’s no denying the effect the ban has had on litter and general quality of life. Local cities and towns would do well to consider such a measure if the Legislature continues to sit on a bill that would add a deposit to the bottles, especially if paired with training for package store owners.

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