Ocean City Today

‘Adopt Your Beach’ effort picks up

Quarterly litter collection, more volunteers as trash totals decrease slightly
By Katie Tabeling | Nov 23, 2017
Adopt Your Beach trash totals in 2016 and 2017

(Nov. 24, 2017) Although resort officials say the Boardwalk smoking ban is working, cigarette butts continued to be a big problem on the beach, according to Adopt Your Beach records.

Volunteers who “adopted” segments of the beach picked up 11,784 cigarette butts this summer. As bad as that is, it is better thank the 14,701 butts collected in Adopt Your Beach’s inaugural year.

“To me, cigarettes are always going to be an issue,” said Effie Cox, the founder of Adopt Your Beach. “We’ve moved it off to the beach, but it’s still there.”

Adopt Your Beach is a civic program for which volunteers register to collect litter on beach parcels at least four times between April and November. The initiative has grown in the past two years from 289 to the current 443 participants.

This year, 1,950.5 pounds of trash were collected by volunteers, slightly less than last year’s 2,166 pounds. This figure does not include Public Work’s daily efforts to keep the beach clean. Every morning in the summer, crews sanitize the beach and dump 800 barrels of trash with the custom “beast” trash truck.

Aside from cigarettes, Adopt Your Beach volunteers point out that plastic drinking straws are consistently found on the beach. This year, 2,568 straws were collected.

Another rising issue is glass bottles on the beach, as that number rose from 697 to 1,436 bottles collected by Adopt Your Beach volunteers. Public Works officials said more alcohol bottles and glass have been found over the past three years. Beach sanitizers can’t pick up the bottles easily, possibly explaining why more volunteers find it.

Looking at the total trash collected this summer, Cox said it’s low for a resort town.

“If you think about it, with eight million visitors a year, that’s actually low trash numbers,” she said. “It looks good for Public Works, but I hope it shows that people are thinking green.”

Public Works Director Hal Adkins, however, called the Adopt Your Beach findings “eye-opening” to the type of waste left behind.

“Keep in mind what we’re doing is automated. For me to compare the consistency of what we collect and what [the hands-on volunteers] get, we’d have to do a waste audit,” he said. “When we did one years ago … the far majority of things we see are paper cups, paper plates, water bottles and other carry-out materials.”

Adopt Your Beach collected 737 plastic cups and plates, 645 Styrofoam containers, 540 plastic utensils, 458 cans, and 242 plastic bottles this summer.

Styrofoam litter is still a concern, even though volunteers found less of it this summer. In 2016, 3,893 pieces were collected, including take-out boxes. That made it the third-highest trash item found by Adopt Your Beach volunteers. This summer, 2,103 pieces were tallied.

City government’s “Green Team” environmental committee once discussed a Styrofoam ban, but balked and decided the idea was a business matter. Mother’s Cantina owners Ryan and Neely James started using biodegradable and non-toxic boxes this year, and are working with other businesses for bulk purchases in similar packaging.

While Adopt Your Beach’s focus is getting people involved to keep Ocean City clean, Cox said it should also get officials to think about where the litter issues lie.

“When we first started conversations about Styrofoam, we really didn’t have a baseline. It was a matter of opinion,” she said. “Now we have hard data to see what we have out there. I hope it translates into something more that can be done.”

Earlier this month, the “Green Team” committee assigned an intern to contact businesses about using an environmentally friendly replacement for Styrofoam takeout boxes.

Councilman Tony DeLuca, who is the chairman of the Green team and volunteers with Adopt Your Beach, said that program’s trash data is informative and needed further discussion.

“Some of these issues, like a no-Styrofoam boxes, are the type of volunteer programs that we’ll pressure others, gently and relentlessly, to get behind,” he said. “But others we’ll need to put on a future agenda.”

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