OCEAN CITY — A handful of benches made from recycled cigarette butts collected through an innovative program established last year are now in place around the resort area.
Last year, the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, in cooperation with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the Worcester County Health Department and the private sector, embarked on a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) aimed at reducing the tremendous amount of cigarette butt and other tobacco product waste littering the resort area. The program was developed by the MCBP and the Green Team after it was determined the majority of the little collected through the Adopt Your Beach and Adopt Your Street initiatives was comprised of cigarette butts.
As a result, the partners developed a cigarette Butt Hut program with receptacles installed in and around the resort area on public property and, to some degree, private sector businesses. Many of the butt huts were installed near the entry ramps to the Boardwalk, which saw an inordinate amount of cigarette butt littering.
Throughout the year, the butt huts were emptied and the cigarette butts were sent to recycling giant TerraCycle, which, in turn, converted the waste to a sustainable hard plastic. TerraCycle then used the plastic created from the recycled cigarette butts to create attractive, durable benches. Four of the benches have now been installed including three on the Boardwalk and one at Seacrets.
“Littering cigarette butts and cigar tips is unsightly, costly to clean up and harmful to waterways and wildlife,” said Ocean City Councilman and Green Team chair Tony DeLuca. “Not only are cigarettes the most picked-up littered item on our beach in Ocean City, but 32% of litter at storm drains is tobacco products. Litter traveling through storm drains and water systems ends up in local streams, rivers, bays and the ocean. The Green Team’s cigarette litter prevention program, along with decades of coordinated beach clean-ups, aims to eliminate cigarette butt litter and these benches are a great result of our community’s efforts to keep our beaches clean.”
According to Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s largest organization aimed at eliminating cigarette litter and co-founder of the CLPP, cigarette butts remain the most-littered item in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to the Keep America Beautiful contribution to the CLPP, grant funding for the local program was provided by the Worcester County Health Department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For its part, TerraCyle was pleased to partner with the MCBP and the Green Team on the project.
“At TerraCycle, our mission has always been to eliminate waste, recycle the unrecyclable and use our innovative business solutions to minimize human impact on the planet,” said TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky. “It’s through partnerships like the one we enjoy with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program that allow us to fulfill our objective and help preserve the environment for future generations.”
The MCBP is working with the town of Ocean City to create a sustainable butt hut and recycling program to keep cigarette little out of local waterways. Keep America Beautiful has awarded an additional $20,000 in grant funding to assist with that effort along with additional messaging campaigns for residents and visitors alike.