OCEAN CITY – With a new slogan and plans for extensive messaging, officials say the resort will be ready to launch its anti-litter campaign by May.
Last Wednesday, the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, continued its discussion on a resort-wide anti-litter campaign focused on outreach, enforcement and recognition.
“This meeting is like our ‘pull the trigger,’” said Gail Blazer, the town’s environmental engineer, “and we’ll start to get things rolling and launched.”
Last year, the Green Team began discussing the resort’s growing litter problem after a particularly troublesome summer season. Council Secretary Tony DeLuca, committee liaison, said the issue was raised after town officials started receiving emails about the amount of trash littering the Boardwalk and side streets.
Despite the efforts of the town’s public works department and beach and street cleanup programs, officials said the town continued to experience an extreme amount of trash last year.
To that end, the Green Team began exploring a campaign that involved community partners both in and around the resort. And in January, representatives from town departments, environmental organizations, the hospitality industry and local schools met for a roundtable discussion on a multi-faceted initiative called “Every Litter Bit Hurts.”
In an update last week, Marketing Coordinator Jenna Knight told the committee that campaign messaging had shifted in the weeks following that January meeting.
“We received some feedback, so we shifted to a more positive focus,” she said. “This is what you are seeing today, ‘Litter Free OC.’”
Knight also highlighted the town’s efforts to launch the Litter Free OC campaign in recent weeks. She said officials have developed messaging for newsletters, emails, banners and billboards, social media and the Boardwalk trams.
DeLuca told committee members last week the trams currently had twelve open advertising spaces. He said he wanted to fill those blank spaces with anti-litter messaging.
“We fill every blank with what we can afford,” he said.
Blazer noted the town had already ordered signage for three of those empty spaces. DeLuca proposed purchasing the other nine panels – at a cost of roughly $4,100 – using grant funds from Keep America Beautiful.
“My thought is we can put messaging on the tram, like ‘Please discard cigarettes in our butt huts …,’” he said. “Keep America Beautiful will pay for anything that says cigarette butts.”
Officials this week also highlighted the campaign’s new webpage, oceancity.green, which features volunteer opportunities, a calendar of upcoming cleanup events, and an anti-litter pledge, to name a few things.
“This is just a starting point,” Blazer said.
In addition to its outreach and recognition efforts, officials this week also highlighted planned enforcement measures.
Capt. Elton Harmon said the Ocean City Police Department will enter into a strict enforcement phase ahead of the summer season. He noted residents and visitors will see more officers on the Boardwalk, smaller patrol sectors and public safety aides stationed at the street ends.
“Hopefully some of the stuff we are doing we’ll be heading it off before it becomes a violation …,” he said. “Warnings are part of enforcement, but I will forecast it will be more enforcement than warnings.”
Public works officials last week also highlighted their contributions. Director Hal Adkins noted that the department would allocate more money this year to provide additional weed spraying in the downtown area. Officials noted weeds tended to trap litter on the town’s side streets.
In the last month, the public works department has also been more aggressive in its efforts to tag broken waste wheelers during residential trash collection.
“This is how we notify the property owner their can is busted, leaking, the lid is missing, and that they need to contact us to replace it,” he said.
Adkins pointed out the public works department had also reduced the amount it charged for replacing trash cans. While he believed the department was selling the trash cans at cost, Adkins said he recently found out that wasn’t the case.
“We’re now moving forward with selling them at cost …, he said. “It will make it more attractive for an individual to become compliant.”
Officials say the Litter Free OC campaign will launch with a proclamation at the May 17 Mayor and Council meeting. From there, Blazer said, officials will “hit the ground running” with programs and messaging.
“We need to keep it spit shined here, or else no one makes money, no one’s going to come …,” she said. “If you see a clean community, you are going to feel safer in it.”