OCEAN CITY – Resort officials say they are ready to launch an extensive anti-litter campaign ahead of the summer season.
Last year, the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, began discussing the resort’s growing litter problem after a particularly troublesome summer season.
Despite the efforts of the town’s public works department and various volunteer cleanup programs, officials said the town continued to experience larger-than-average trash volume, which was mainly attributed to an increase in carryout containers from local businesses. To that end, committee members joined forces with town departments, environmental organizations, private businesses and local schools to launch a multi-faceted initiative called “Litter Free OC.”
“That’s why we’re here,” said Gail Blazer, the town’s environmental engineer, “because of the emails and complaints about how bad it was last year.”
During Wednesday’s Green Team meeting, Blazer noted the Litter Free OC campaign would formally kick off next Monday with a proclamation from the Mayor and Council. She said messaging will be displayed on billboards and banners, advertisements, social media posts and trash cans.
“As of right now, we are ready to pull the trigger on this whole thing,” she said.
In preparation for the upcoming season, Ocean City Police Department Capt. Elton Harmon told committee members this week seasonal officers and public safety aides are being instructed to enforce all litter violations.
“Our emphasis is on quality-of-life issues, meaning municipal violations, peace and good order,” he said. “Part of that is also littering. We’re addressing that with them, and their emphasis will be enforcement with that.”
Harmon added that deployment would also change this summer. He said residents and visitors can expect more police saturation in busier areas.
“We’re going into a strict enforcement phase with all infractions,” he said.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said his crews were also working to improve litter issues around the resort this year. He noted the first round of weed spraying is now complete, and that high-use cigarette butt huts had been replaced with larger containers between the Inlet and 18th Street.
Adkins also noted the department had found ways to lower the replacement price for private trash cans. He said replacements for 90-gallon waste wheelers were reduced to roughly $50, while 300-gallon containers were reduced to $290.
“Our goal there is to make it more appealing,” he said, “more enticing for property owners to be more willing to purchase and replace their can.”
Lastly, Adkins noted the Mayor and Council funded the increase of six maintenance workers for the coming fiscal year. He said those new employees would be used to set up an additional cleaning rotation around the Boardwalk in the afternoon hours.
“From 2:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning there isn’t anybody. That’s the way we’ve operated for decades,” he said. “We’re trying to change that up, to have someone here in the afternoon hours to maintain the side streets and Boardwalk area.”
Blazer told committee members this week information on the campaign, including a list of cleanup events and green programs, has been added to the new Litter Free OC website, oceancity.green.
“I’m getting calls from people all over the country … in regard to our program, asking for advice and how we’re implementing the program,” she said.
Blazer said a summary of the campaign’s successes would be presented to the Green Team in the fall.
“It’s been a good group effort for the last six months, and I’m glad we’re at this point …,” she said. “I really think we’ve done the best we can. Now hopefully it will all fall into place.”