OCEAN CITY – Efforts to make a cigarette disposal program sustainable highlighted a resort committee meeting this week.
On Wednesday, members of the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee (Green Team) discussed ways to expand and improve its cigarette butt disposal program.
Last summer, resort officials implemented a two-pronged initiative to install 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 Ocean City.
In doing so, officials had hoped the containers would encourage smokers to properly dispose of cigarette butts after learning 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.
At the same time the town installed its butt huts near the Boardwalk, a partnership with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) provided similar butt huts to private businesses throughout the resort.
Cigarette butts collected from both efforts were then shipped off to be recycled. To date, more than 360,000 cigarette butts have been recycled through the two-pronged program.
By and large, officials have deemed the town-led initiative a success. And late last year, the committee agreed to expand the program to include more street ends before the start of the next summer season.
While the initial hope was to expand the program to each street end from the end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line, committee members this week agreed to select roughly 20 locations for the first phase of an expansion.
“I’d like to see them on every street …,” Councilman Tony DeLuca, liaison for the committee, said. “But if we don’t need them on a street, they don’t need to be on the street.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said he wasn’t concerned about creating and installing additional butt huts, but finding the manpower to empty the containers.
“I’m not concerned about the cost of fabricating this,” he said. “My concern is I don’t like failure, and I don’t want to fail at being able to collect them.”
Adkins also questioned the town’s ability to create an internship program for the cigarette disposal initiative using critical area mitigation funds.
Sandi Smith, marketing and development coordinator of MCBP, said an intern who could manage both public and private efforts would make the program sustainable. She noted MCBP received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to hire an intern for the coming year.
“We’re trying to pass it on to the city to make it sustainable …,” she said. “But we’re trying to wrap our arms around how it could be funded without going to the city and saying, ‘Can you fund it 100%.’”
Despite the town’s achievements, Smith said the second prong of the two-pronged approach did not share the same success. Challenges included the installation of butt huts at private businesses and the collection of litter to be recycled.
DeLuca said he didn’t mind eliminating recycling efforts, so long as the cigarette butts are making their way into the butt huts and not into the town’s catch basins or into the coastal bays.
“To me, the recycling is really the icing on the top,” he said.
Smith, however, said the recycling aspect of the program proved to critics that the town does recycle some of its collected litter.
“These are products that are being recycled in America and new products are being made in America,” she said. “That’s huge.”
Committee members agreed this week to consider new butt hut locations from the end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line.
“It’s not that difficult to identify key locations that will be beneficial …,” Adkins said. “It won’t be every single street.”