New Cigarette Butt Recycling Program Mulled For Ocean City

New Cigarette Butt Recycling Program Mulled For Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – A resort committee this week agreed to seek help to draft a source reduction plan.

After witnessing the success of the Surfrider Foundation’s “Strawless Summer” campaign – an initiative to reduce plastic straw consumption in Ocean City – Councilman Tony DeLuca, chairman for the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, told committee members on Wednesday he was eager to see what source reduction initiatives the town could support in the future.

“What do we do for next year?” he said.

Sandi Smith, development and marketing coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, said she was currently working on a source reduction initiative that would target cigarette butts. As part of the grant-funded initiative, town businesses that agree to recycle collected cigarette butts receive a free receptacle.

“My goal is to stay away from the Boardwalk businesses at this point because there are already components in place for that,” she said. “This concept was to extend it further then what the town of Ocean City is already doing.”

As part of the program, Smith said businesses, as well as the town, can package and ship discarded cigarette butts to TerraCycle, which pays for the shipping costs.

“There is an opportunity to put in place a cigarette butt recycling program with the town of Ocean City, which is another step towards source reduction,” she said.

Throughout the summer, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the town collects six, 55-gallon barrels of discarded cigarette butts from beach receptacles. Instead of throwing them in the trash, he said the town could join in on Smith’s initiative.

“Whether we dump them into boxes with pre-paid shipping labels and ship them to TerraCycle, or we continue to dump them in the trash, it does not matter,” he said. “You all need to make the decision.”

DeLuca said he supported source reduction initiatives that targeted cigarette butts.

“It’s the No. 1 thing we find during beach cleanups by far,” he said. “There’s nothing close.”

DeLuca added he would also like to see efforts taken to address Styrofoam.

“When I pick up along the beach, it’s second to cigarette butts,” he said. “I would love next year to be all about Styrofoam.”

To that end, Gail Blazer, the town’s environmental engineer, suggested the formation of a subcommittee to develop a source reduction plan.

“It’s long term and something that isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but I think we need to get a subcommittee together that can bring back recommendations and ideas to the Green Team,” she said.

DeLuca, however, said he opposed the idea of a subcommittee.

“I don’t think I like the subcommittee idea because then we only have two or three peoples’ minds,” he said. “I think I like all of us to have a four- to six-hour workshop.”

In addition to hold a meeting to create a source reduction plan, committee members said the Green Team could invite a consultant knowledgeable in source reduction planning to help create the document.

“We need to get some expert recommendations,” Blazer said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Blazer added that the source reduction plan would be a guideline for how the town, and its businesses, should tackle waste.

“It doesn’t hold the town to anything,” she said. “It would just be a recommendation, and we could use public-private partnerships.”

Melanie Pursel, executive director of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, said she liked the idea of using the plan to inform businesses of ways to reduce waste.

“I think it delivers a menu of options for the businesses,” she said. “Maybe they don’t have the time or wherewithal to investigate all this stuff, and they can look at the recommendations and choose to implement two things. We can make it optional, or even incentivize it.”

DeLuca, however, said he liked the idea of a plan that could implement source reduction initiatives in phases.

“All we are doing right now is putting together a plan …,” he said. “I can talk about 20 different things right now that I would like to do, but when everything is important nothing is important. I like baby steps, but a plan wouldn’t hurt this whole thing.”

Blazer agreed.

“If we say we are a cleaner, greener community, we should have a plan to say why we are green,” she said.

After further discussion, the committee agreed to contact a consultant to meet with the Green Team to draft a source reduction plan.

“If you don’t have a facilitator that knows the business, you are going to sit there and talk to each other,” Adkins added.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.