OCEAN CITY – After a banner year, organizers of a resort composting program are looking to expand operations in 2022.
Last week, The Hobbit Restaurant owner and Ocean Compost LLC representative Garvey Heiderman came before the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee (Green Team) to provide an update on the organization’s composting program, which collects food waste from a handful of resort restaurants and transports it to a composting site in Bishopville.
While Ocean Compost reported composting more than 40 tons of waste last year, Heiderman told committee members last week he is hoping to collect more than 200 tons in 2022.
“There’s a lot of layers to this thing,” he said. “In the broadest sense, we are overhauling the way people handle their waste … It’s a crawl-walk-run process.”
In 2018, Josh Chamberlain, founder of the local nonprofit Go Green OC, partnered with Heiderman and The Hobbit to launch a pilot composting program. Since that time, organizers have secured grant funding and donations to help run the program and have diverted tons of compostable waste from the town’s waste stream.
In 2021, the composting program went a step further by adding four restaurants – 70th Street Dough Roller, Mother’s Cantina, Bonfire and Annabelle’s – to the composting initiative.
“As I expand the program, we’re trying to get a representation of what Ocean City could be,” he said.
Ocean Compost also entered into an agreement with the town last year in its efforts to divert waste that heads to the incinerator.
More than a decade ago, Ocean City moved away from its traditional curbside recycling program and began working with Covanta, a waste-to-energy operation that incinerates trash and converts it to energy. As part of the agreement, the town will pay Ocean Compost the same per-ton rate it pays Covanta for any compost that is removed from the waste stream, making it a cost-neutral option for the town.
“The only difference with us is that we’re picking up and hauling it to the transfer station, whereas the town does the picking up of single-stream waste and then Covanta comes and hauls it,” Heiderman said.
With another successful year in the books, Heiderman told committee members last week he is now looking to partner with more restaurants.
“The town does 34,000 tons of waste a year, and our estimation is probably 10,000 tons of that, at least, is compostable,” he said. “I do think at least 5,000 to 8,000 tons is the low-hanging fruit, coming from the large producers like restaurants and condos.”
While Ocean Compost has set a goal of composting 250 tons in the next year, Heiderman said he is hoping to reach 1,000 tons in 2023. When asked if Ocean Compost would need to expand their composting site, Heiderman noted it would be something to consider if the program became sustainable.
“Obviously we need to create a model here to make money, to show municipalities and private businesses that we can do something that’s better for the environment and saves everybody money, or even makes them money,” he said. “Long-term wise, if it turns out we can turn this into a cashflow-positive thing, then I’m interested in purchasing property and having a centralized site where we can pull from places like Salisbury.”
However, he noted that operating from a larger site would require permitting from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“We’re still a long way away from that,” he said.