(June 14, 2019) It’s been years now that recycling has been the go-to answer for those seeking to be eco-friendly. The Surfrider Foundation-Ocean City Chapter, Ocean City Green Team and Maryland Coastal Bays Program, however, believe it is time to focus on reducing the stream of waste altogether.

“To me, reduction is proactive while recycling is reactive,” said Green Team Chairman and Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca.

The Protect Our Sand & Sea campaign is referred to as “source reduction,” which means reducing the source of the waste, and drew inspiration from a project the Surfrider Foundation       launched last summer.

That project was the Strawless Summer campaign, and it encouraged businesses and people to reduce single-use plastic straw use.

“We thought it was easiest to start with something small, like a straw, and maybe that would inspire people to…use a reusable cup or carry a reusable bag,” Surfrider’s secretary Marina Feeser said.

Feeser said the campaign was much more successful than the foundation had anticipated, and garnered support from 67 restaurants and 500 people.

The Surfriders are now working with Ocean City Green Team and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program on the “Protect our Sand and Sea” project to go beyond recycling.

“Recycling is problematic,” development and marketing coordinator of Maryland Coastal Bays Program Sandi Smith said. “…Only so much plastic can be recycled, so a majority of what people think are being recycled are still winding up in our landfills.”

Furthermore, it still promotes the production of plastic, said Arianna Russo, a member of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.

Outside of plastic, the project organizers hope to tackle other forms of litter, such as cigarette butts.

“Cigarette butts are the number one litter item in the world,” DeLuca said. “Today, the city council approved an initiative to place two ‘butt huts’ on each street, west of the boulevard from the inlet to 27th street.”

Overall, businesses in Ocean City have responded positively to the campaign, DeLuca, Smith and Russo said. However, there is still one obstacle that hinders the campaign’s progress.

“I think [there’s] a lack of knowledge,” Russo said.

She went on to explain how businesses unfamiliar with eco-friendly products questioned their the durability. Russo said that once she showed business owners how the items worked, their mentalities quickly changed.

The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association will help to inform and educate Ocean City industries about the project.

“The project was presented to our board by Sandi Smith…and the board liked the idea,” HMRA Executive Director Susan Jones said. “Now that the state has banned Styrofoam, the program may gain even more traction.”

Businesses may choose any of the following pledges to commit to:

• Pledge one: Summer Flounder level– Straws are upon request only and Strawless Summer pledge is signed.

• Pledge two: Horseshoe Crab level – No plastic straws. Alternatives such as paper are offered.

• Pledge three: Diamondback Terrapin level – No plastic bags or Styrofoam are used for takeout.

• Pledge four: Black Skimmer level – No plastic or Styrofoam cups.

• Pledge five: Harbor Seal level– No plastic tableware.

The campaign will reward restaurants with a plaque designed as the pledge’s animal symbol – an idea offered by the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association in lieu of the original star system rating that was initially proposed.

In addition, the campaign will promote businesses that have signed the pledge through social media, newspaper advertisements and other marketing tools such as stickers.

“We want to be the city that takes the precedent and leads the way for more environmentally friendly choices,” Smith said. “Make it simple, make it easy and reward those who do the right thing.”

For more information about the project check out the Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s website or email mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org

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