OCEAN CITY – A program to reduce plastic straw consumption in Ocean City received the support of a resort committee last week.
This month, the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation launched its first “Strawless Summer” program, which raises awareness of plastic pollution by launching a campaign that encourages restaurants, locals and visitors to stop using plastic straws.
In a Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, meeting last week, Jane Robinson, chair of the local Surfrider Foundation, said participating businesses and individuals can do their part to make the ocean and beaches cleaner by serving straws upon request, using environmentally friendly straws or by letting restaurant waitstaff know ahead of time to hold the plastic straw.
As of last week, Robinson said 28 restaurants and nearly 300 individuals have committed to the program through the organization’s online pledge.
“It’s not going to solve everything, but it certainly is a start to raise awareness,” she said.
Councilman Tony DeLuca, chair of the Green Team, praised the organization’s efforts.
“When we ask restaurants and hotels and people to do things it usually costs money,” he said. “When you are in the restaurant business, labor, food and paper are over 50 percent of your costs, and if you eliminate straws and have upon-request only, it reduces your paper costs. This saves restaurants and hotels money.”
“It’s nice because they don’t have to buy as many straws,” she said.
Since hearing of the program, DeLuca told Robinson he had met with town officials in an effort to reduce its plastic straw consumption. For example, he said the Roland E. Powell Convention Center will stop using plastic straws for all events beginning July 1.
“I thought it would be nice if Ocean City could be a pace-setter,” he said.
Green Team representatives from the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association and the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce also pledged to help promote the program.
“I look at this as a positive for tourism,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel. “I think it’s going to be trendy, if you will, to not use a straw.”
DeLuca asked how participating restaurants informed its customers of the Strawless Summer initiative.
“Do you have a logo or sign for a restaurant to put on its door?” he said.
Robinson said the Surfrider Foundation is delivering buttons, flyers and posters for restaurants to distribute and display.
Sandi Smith of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program said she was willing to help the Surfrider Foundation seek grant funding from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore to purchase logo stickers that will be distributed to participating businesses.
“They have funding for projects like this, so I can help you with that,” she said.
Robinson thanked the committee for its support.
“Thank you for any help you can give us,” she said.
DeLuca said the Strawless Summer campaign was the town’s first step in source reduction.
“We were thinking this year straws and next year Styrofoam,” he said. “It’s baby steps.”