OCEAN CITY – Officials gathered in Ocean City this week to celebrate the launch of the “Protect our Sand and Sea” program.
Earlier this year, Ocean City’s Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, and its partners – the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Ocean City Surf Club, Ocean City Surfrider Foundation and the Town of Ocean City – introduced a source-reduction campaign aimed at the use of plastics and polystyrene products prevalent in the resort’s hospitality industry. The program promotes businesses that voluntarily commit to using fewer plastic products and making greener choices.
After a year of planning and preparation, officials launched the “Protect Our Sand and Sea” pledge in March. On Tuesday, Green Team members and resort officials gathered at Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill to officially kick off the source reduction initiative.
“Source reduction is the most effective way to save our natural resources,” said Councilman Tony DeLuca, chair of the Green Team. “This is exactly what this program is doing, protecting our sand and seas.”
The “Protect Our Sand and Sea” initiative comes on the heels of the highly successful “Strawless Summer” program. Last year, the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean City chapter launched the initiative focused on reducing plastic straw consumption by pledging to not use plastic straws. To date, 70 restaurants and 500 individuals have signed the pledge.
Going a step further, the “Protect Our Sand and Sea” program allows businesses to voluntarily participate in any one of five source reduction pledges aimed at reducing the plastic waste stream in Ocean City.
In return, those businesses receive free social media promotion, newspaper advertisements and marketing tools, such as recognition plaques and stickers.
“We wanted to create a voluntary program that stopped waste at the source …,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.
“Through this pledge, the Green Team developed a way to encourage businesses to switch from single-source plastic and Styrofoam products to environmentally friendly alternatives.”
Frank Piorko, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, said the source reduction campaign was made possible by cobbling together thousands of dollars in grant funding from the EPA, NOAA, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Keep Maryland Beautiful.
“It’s about trying to change the behavior of individuals in a positive way,” he said.
Melanie Pursel, president and CEO of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, applauded the businesses for voluntarily taking measures to reduce plastic waste.
“Hopefully businesses will see this, read about it and will want to get on board,” she said. “Small changes, huge results. That’s what we do here in Ocean City.”
The “Protect Our Sand and Sea” campaign is one of two source-reduction measures to be recognized this week. Officials also highlighted the launch of a cigarette butt recycling program.
In 2015, the Mayor and Council took the first step in reducing cigarette butt litter by creating designated smoking areas on the beach and making the Boardwalk a smoke-free environment.
And this year, the resort’s Green Team collaborated on a cigarette butt recycling program to further promote source reduction efforts.
Using grant funds from Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program and the Worcester County Health Department Prevention Services, any business willing to take the pledge to commit to recycling cigarette butts can receive a free butt hut and signage. Cigarette butts taken from these huts, as well as huts provided by the town, will be sent to TerraCycle to be recycled.
To date, 104 pounds of cigarette butts have been recycled through the program, according to Sandi Smith, development and marketing coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. That equates to more than 104,000 cigarette butts.
“One of the items made from recycled cigarette butts are park benches,” Smith said in a statement. “Thanks to grant funding, several benches will be ordered and distributed throughout the town in September.”
Meehan said the town’s source reduction efforts highlight the community’s desire to protect Ocean City’s greatest assets.
“We are lucky to live here in this beautiful, natural environment,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we all live here. But this privilege also comes with a responsibility to protect what we have.”
by calling 410-213-2297 ext. 106.