OCEAN CITY – Following the success of a cigarette disposal initiative near the Boardwalk this summer, a resort committee began a discussion this month on expanding efforts to the Maryland-Delaware line.
Earlier this summer, the town installed cigarette butt receptacles – or butt huts – along with signage stating, “smoking prohibited beyond this point,” on the side streets to the west of the Boardwalk.
In doing so, resort officials had hoped the containers would encourage smokers to properly dispose of cigarette butts. Last year, it was determined the town’s Boardwalk smoking ban had led to a larger issue of cigarette butt litter accumulating at the street ends adjacent to the promenade.
In a meeting this month of the Ocean City Green Team, Councilman Tony DeLuca, chair of the committee, highlighted the successful butt hut program.
“People were actually putting cigarette butts in them,” he said. “That was unbelievable.”
DeLuca said the next step was to replace certain containers to the west of the Boardwalk with larger butt huts and expand the program to include more street ends.
“We need to expand it now from the end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line,” he said, “every single street.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the committee that crews would be replacing the butt huts on certain streets between now and next May. However, he said expanding the program could require more manpower.
“They are not difficult to build, they are not difficult to install, but the issue will be the collection process …,” he said. “It all comes down to what volume we end up experiencing. There will be a few streets out there where we’ll probably collect once or twice the whole summer and we’ll be fine. Then you are going to have other ones with higher frequency that I can’t guarantee you I’ll have the manpower to get to them.”
Committee members this week also discussed private efforts to reduce cigarette butt litter in Ocean City.
At the same time the town installed its butt huts near the Boardwalk, a partnership with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) provided similar containers to private businesses throughout the resort.
However, the second prong of a two-pronged approach did not experience the same success. Sandi Smith, marketing and development coordinator for MCBP, said challenges included the installation of the butt huts at private businesses and the collection of the cigarette butts, which were combined with the resort’s cigarette litter and shipped off to be recycled.
“At Coastal Bays, we like to create projects for the community and partner on projects, but we are not here to run projects …,” she said. “You are looking at the person that shoveled the 313,500 cigarette butts and put them in boxes to mail to TerraCycle.”
While the program received positive feedback, Smith said only half of the participating businesses had installed the butt huts. She added that those who did use the containers did not always recycle the contents.
“We said from the very beginning the worst case is they empty them into the garbage can …,” DeLuca noted. “But at least they aren’t on the streets and all over the curb. They aren’t recycled, but they aren’t in the bays and ocean.”
Smith told the committee that MCBP had received grant funding to pay for someone to develop a plan for improving the program. She said the next step would be to work with the town and find someone who can run the program and focus on source-reduction efforts.
“To make it sustainable you need to create a position and figure out how we as a city can fund it,” she said.