New receptacles at street ends will give smokers place to indulge while serving as source for recycling plan
(May 17, 2019) Public and private efforts to reduce trash along the beach and Boardwalk are targeting smokers, with containers being set up citywide to recycle cigarette butts.
City Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer, during a Green Team committee meeting last Wednesday, said cigarette waste in those areas “is our number-one trash that we pick up.”
City Councilman Tony DeLuca added that the Boardwalk smoking ban, enacted several years ago, began with educational efforts.
“The first year was education – we didn’t do anything,” he said. “The second year … if you saw repeat stuff, we started fining. Last year was the third year and we went after it.”
DeLuca said smoking fines a year ago were $100.
“We got a lot of emails … ‘I walked on the Boardwalk [and] I was so excited to be on vacation with my family. I lit up a cigarette and, boom, it’s $100!’” he said. “So, we moved it down to $50 last year … and we didn’t get any complaints.”
DeLuca estimated about 1,000 citations were given.
“It was a big number, so we’re going to go after it hard again,” he said.
To make room for smokers, but also to help cut down on the trash they produce, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the plan was to put recycling containers adjoining the 25 planned Boardwalk safety barriers.
He said City Engineer Terry McGean had 25 locations for those in mind, with about 15 already in place and 10 more under construction.
Adkins said the “butt huts” and signage for the recycling containers had already been made for each site and could be installed in a day or two.
“They will be located … adjoining the bollard, but on the ocean side of the bollard, so the standing individual is not in harm’s way of an automobile,” Adkins said. “My guess is, as early as next week, we’re going to roll in and [install] 75 percent of them and then sit and wait back for Terry to finish.”
He added among the last challenges, from the city’s perspective, was figuring out how close to the containers smokers must remain and then communicating that on signs. City ordinances permit smoking only in designated areas, within 15 feet of waste receptacles. However, Adkins hinted that might be too much leeway for Boardwalk patrons and workers.
“Using the same sign that is currently out on the beach it states … that you shall smoke within 15 feet of that sign,” he said. “Obviously, that won’t work in this case. We were envisioning it would have said something like ‘smoke within two feet of this sign’ or ‘smoke within three feet of this sign.’
“It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge on how we word it. That’s the last thing we have yet to achieve and then we will put them in. And then we will sit back and see if it [gets] positive results or not,” Adkins added.
He said containers would be emptied about once a month, depending on the location. Bins near the inlet would almost certainly need to be emptied more often than those on 21st Street, for example.
“By two weeks into June, we’ll know whether we’re going to hear negativity or not,” Adkins said. “It’ll be right up front on whether it worked or not – whether or not someone is congregating too close to their hostess station or too close to the restaurant entrance.
“That’ll happen in the first couple weeks and then this group’s going to have to make a decision – do we continue with the program, or do you instruct me to go out there and remove the sign and remove the butt hut, which wouldn’t bother me either way. It’s just logistics to me,” he continued. “But we’ll give it a try.”
“I still think if we don’t give them a place to smoke, they’re going to smoke wherever they want,” DeLuca said. “I really believe that.”
“I think we’re really giving it a good try – no matter whether it’s 27 inches or 14 feet west off the Boardwalk,” he said. “For what we put into it, and what we will put into it in the next week or two to install it, it’s worth the effort.”
Along with the city’s plan, Sandi Smith from Maryland Coastal Bays told the Green Team she is working on a private effort involving local businesses.
Smith is asking businesses to pledge to place additional butt huts, which would then be promoted using photo ops.
“[Volunteers] are going to get photo ops of all the businesses that receive them, and then they’re going to forward them to us and we’re going to take those photos and start forwarding to the Town of Ocean City, Surf Club [and] Surfrider [Foundation], and start posting on social media,” she said.
“Our goal is 200, but we also want to make sure that we can maintain the program, because that’s one of the biggest pitfalls of the butt hut programs in some other cities is the follow-through,” she continued. “We don’t want to be the one that doesn’t follow through – we want to be the role model.”
Smith said about 1,000 butts can be recycled into one pound of recycled materials, which are then remade into public benches.
Coastal Bays, with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and others, will produce at least one demonstration bench as part of a “Butts on Butts program.” Smith hopes to have benches installed in places like Northside Park and perhaps outside the chamber of commerce building on Route 50.
The butt huts themselves will be supplied by the Keep America Beautiful nonprofit agency to the Green Team, through a Maryland Coastal Bays initiative. The Worcester County Health Department also provided financial support for the program.
Participating businesses will get a butt hut and a sign stating, “this business recycles butts, look for the receptacle,” Smith said.
“What we’ve learned through this program … is you can put it out there and you can announce it … but it’s really one on one. It’s really us going to individual businesspeople and saying, ‘You know what? Yeah, we’re bunny-huggers, but we’re not asking you to give blood. We’re asking you to make a simple commitment and we’ll help you do it.’
“We’re giving businesses any easy way to recycle butts,” Smith added.
For more information on the program, visit www.mdcoastalbays.org/ the-butt-stops-here.