OCEAN CITY – A resort committee last week was given a closer look into the town’s trash collection and cleanup efforts as part of an ongoing discussion on litter.
Last week, public works officials met with the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee (Green Team) to discuss solutions to a growing litter problem throughout the resort.
“This year we really had a litter problem that we hadn’t seen before, and it was on the Boardwalk and side streets,” said Council Secretary Tony DeLuca, committee liaison. “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”
DeLuca, who had first raised the issue in September, attributed the litter issue to an increase in carryout services, a decrease in litter citations, and broken trash cans, among other things. With the help of committee members and public works officials, he said the resort could develop a multi-faceted campaign for the coming summer season.
“We said one of the things we want to do this year is we want to work on a positive program where ‘Every Litter Bit Hurts,’” he said. “Some sort of positive program for the residents, for the community, to get around.”
Public Works Deputy Director Woody Vickers noted the town collects roughly 330 tons of trash annually. In the summer months, he said, crews worked 24 hours a day to empty the 380-plus Boardwalk trash cans and the nearly 700 beach trash cans.
“It’s incredible the amount of tonnage that’s being collected …,” added Maintenance Manager Tom Dy. “It’s a challenge. But we do it, and we do it well.”
But despite the department’s efforts, Vickers noted some of the behaviors the town had witnessed on the Boardwalk this year.
“The trash can is right beside them, and you can walk down and see they put their trash under the bench,” he said. “Coming in on the weekend the seawall would be littered with trash.”
Officials noted the campaign could address those issues. Committee member Pat McLaughlin suggested the resort consider messaging on the Boardwalk trash cans.
“I don’t think it’s because people are lazy,” he said. “I think it’s because accountability goes down when people are away from their home.”
Officials last week also noted the campaign could focus on residential trash collection. Vickers noted a number of residents continued to use aging and broken waste wheelers, and that a press release could highlight that bins, lids and wheels are available for purchase through the department’s website.
“We do provide them for a cost,” he said.
Committee members and public works officials last week also discussed weed control efforts along the town’s side streets, as well as the growing number of bulk pickup requests throughout the resort.
“Bulk pickup this year has been off the charts,” Vickers said. “It’s nothing to get 25 or 30 a day.”
Public works officials also discussed the department’s staffing limitations.
In a letter to committee members, Public Works Director Hal Adkins noted the maintenance department – responsible for cleaning the beach, Boardwalk, streets, alleys, parking lots and bus shelters, in addition to several other tasks – consisted of roughly a dozen full-time staff members not assigned to specific tasks.
“During the summer months, if we are lucky to find them, this department is expanded by 14 seasonal maintenance workers in the street division to help clean and five seasonal staff in the Boardwalk division to run what is known as the night barrel crew dumping the boardwalk trash barrels in the evening hours …,” he wrote. “There is not an army of cleaning staff (as in 50, 60, 70 … 100). That has never been the case.”
Officials last week said the committee would continue to work on the litter campaign in the coming months, along with the help of the public works and police departments.
“We have to figure out the message,” said Committee Chair Gail Blazer. “That’s what we’re going to work on this spring.”