OCEAN CITY — After a particularly trashy summer last year for a variety of reasons, Ocean City is getting ready to embark on an aggressive anti-litter campaign to roll out in advance of next season.
Consistent complaints heard last summer related to the amount of trash swirling around the Boardwalk and the side streets, particularly in the high-volume downtown area. The public works department did their typical yeoman’s work in keeping the beach and Boardwalk clean and emptying trash cans.
The quasi-private Adopt Your Street and Adopt Your Beach programs continued their efforts to keep the resort clean. Nonetheless, a consistent theme last summer was the amount of trash and little blowing around town streets. The contributions were likely many including many businesses, at least early on, operating in a carryout-only model. There was likely some change in the general public’s attitude with the COVID pandemic ongoing and the civil unrest unfolding around the country.
During a briefing on next week’s Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, Councilman and Chair Tony DeLuca said the entire session will be dedicated to a proposed anti-litter campaign for next summer tentatively called “Every Litter Bit Hurts.”
“The entire meeting is going to be dedicated to an anti-litter campaign,” he said. “It’s going to be a one-and-a-half-hour roundtable discussion. As all of you know, the town of Ocean City has experienced an extreme amount of trash and litter over the last year, especially on the Boardwalk and the side streets.”
DeLuca said next week’s meeting will include committee members, staff and other stakeholders and the discussion will focus on messaging, enforcement, signage and outreach. “Every Litter Bit Hurts” is a working title, but other alternatives will be considered on getting the message out that the town is serious about it growing litter problem.
“We need to address this issue straight on and send the message that littering is unacceptable, including that it is a municipal infraction,” he said. “We need to change the current mindset and Ocean City will be established as a ‘no litter’ zone.”
DeLuca said part of the focus will be on messaging and outreach, kind of “kill them with kindness” approach based on recognition of doing the right thing before dropping the hammer of enforcement on offenders.
“This will take an all-out effort from a variety of departments and organizations as well as our citizens and visitors,” he said. “We’re going to focus on recognition more than the other issues. We going to try to make it recognition-based and try to change the culture.”
During an earlier discussion about the Police Commission’s agenda, the Mayor and Council got a briefing on the recruitment efforts for seasonal officers and public safety aides (PSAs). During that discussion, the issue of having the PSAs do more enforcement and issue more municipal citations on the littering issue arose, particularly when it came to light there were seven total municipal infractions for littering issued last year.
“We talked about the need for the PSAs to be more outgoing,” said Councilman and chair Lloyd Martin. “We need them to be writing more citations as needed, particularly with the littering issue.”
Councilman Frank Knight agreed with Martin’s assessment.
“The good word I heard floated around was ‘engaged,’” he said. “They need to be more engaged.”