Ocean City Group Launches Compost Pilot Program; Month-Long Campaign Aims To Collect Data

OCEAN CITY – A new pilot program in Ocean City is expected to reduce waste and gather data for a resort-wide composting initiative.

On Sept. 14, Go Green OC – a campaign dedicated to initiating zero waste goals and assisting in the implementation of such programs in Ocean City – launched a month-long pilot program that will measure composting practices at a resort restaurant.

Josh Chamberlain, founder of Go Green OC, said his efforts to launch a compost pilot program began in May, after his plans to reintroduce a recycling program in Ocean City were tabled by the town’s Coastal Resources Legislative Committee. The committee argued the town’s trash incineration program – which takes all waste to a facility in Pennsylvania to be transformed into steam and then electricity – was more efficient.

“I just needed someone to believe in me,” he said.

Shortly after making his pitch to the committee, Chamberlain said Garvey Heiderman, owner of The Hobbit Restaurant, agreed to partner with Go Green OC for a compost pilot program.

The four-week program will conclude on Oct. 14 and includes partnerships with the restaurant, a local organic farm, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Sunbelt Rentals.

Heiderman said the pilot program will serve as a data collection tool that will be presented to interested restaurants and town officials. By separating organic waste and weighing both the compost and remaining trash, he said the restaurant will be able to measure what percentage of waste can be removed from the waste stream.

“We landed on a composting program because it helps the environment and it saves the town money,” he said.

By composting, Heiderman said the town could save money on tipping fees and minimize the need for multiple weekly trash pickups.

“We want hard and fast numbers,” he said. “Ideas are just ideas until you can put some numbers behind it.”

Chamberlain said the compost – including egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, and more – collected at Heiderman’s restaurant will be picked up each week by a local farmer. He added the goal is to remove 50 percent of the trash from the waste stream.

“The compost will not be sent off to the waste incinerator, which will reduce the amount of weight being put into the waste stream,” he said. “And it’s cheaper to take compost and move it locally to a farm then to send it three hours north to be burned.”’

Chamberlain said composting creates jobs and is in high demand. He noted that farmers, businesses, residents and state agencies use compost daily for gardening, landscaping, crops and pollution mitigation strategies.

“There are some farms locally that buy compost from western Maryland,” he said. “Those farms will no longer have to do that. There’s a huge market for it.”

Heiderman said the pilot program is two-fold in that the restaurant will be collecting data and making sure it can produce a good end product. But despite its promises, he said the pilot program does come with its challenges.

Currently, the program is being funded privately, and Heiderman said it is uncertain how other restaurants will find the space to separate the compost once the program expands.

“There are some potential hurdles if we plan on doing this on a large scale,” he said.

He added, however, that Go Green OC is currently seeking a $7,500 grant that will assist in the expansion of the program.

“Hopefully, it will be a tool that will allow others to participate,” he said.

Chamberlain said the compost program is the organization’s first phase in implementing city-wide waste reduction strategies. He explained that Go Green OC would also like to see a cardboard recycling program and, in time, a reintroduction of a large-scale recycling program.

“It’s a step-by-step process,” he said. “We are going to do one thing at a time.”

While the month-long program will serve as a beta test of sorts, Chamberlain said Go Green OC is looking for more restaurants and farmers to join the program next year.

“We want to save the town money and set up a relationship between the farmers and restaurants …,” he said. “Hopefully the community will embrace the program and say, ‘this is what we want in town.’”

For more information, visit www.gogreenwithoc.org, or contact Josh Chamberlain at gogreenoccampaign@gmail.com​ or 443-880-6765.

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.