Up and down the coast, boardwalks and beaches have seen a significant increase in litter as more people pack them and COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease.
Due in part to an increase in outdoor dining and takeout orders, images of the trash have made their way to social media, to the displeasure of residents and vacationers alike.
It’s an issue officials are well aware of and have begun to address.
“Due to the influx of visitors, we have increased our seasonal staff to 30 people,” Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said, “and we’re also back-filling — no new hires — back-filling vacant public works positions. So that’s 37 more people that we have at the ready.”
The garbage seems to only be a problem for the first few hours of each morning. Discarded pizza boxes and drink containers can be seen on the ground and on Boardwalk benches, and beach visitors regularly leave their belongings on the sand.
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By the time the Boardwalk sees peak foot traffic in the afternoon, much of that is gone.
Small said cleaning crews are out every morning, and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority workers clean throughout the rest of the day.
Marcus McManus comes to the Atlantic City Boardwalk from Berkeley Township, Ocean County, at least once a month. He said he thinks the city’s work is paying off.
“I was pretty surprised (by the cleanliness),” said McManus, 64. “The beach looks really good.”
The city is doing the most it can to make its historic walkway presentable, Small said.
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“These are trying times,” he said, “and that’s no excuse, but we’ve answered the clarion call and were proactive, and we’re giving it the necessary tools to succeed.”
Officials are also counting on visitors to do their part and heed the signs posted along the Boardwalk.
“We have all the signage that we need to deter (littering),” Small said. “At the end of the day, these are hopefully responsible adults that are going to do the right thing. And since they love coming to visit Atlantic City, they’re going to do what they can to take care of Atlantic City.”
Ryan Anderson, who comes to the Boardwalk twice a week from Philadelphia, thinks visitors are doing just that.
“It seems pretty clean,” said Anderson, 42. “I feel like everyone’s being responsible.”
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Farther south along the shore, Ocean City has been facing a similar issue due to the fact that indoor dining isn’t yet permitted in the state.
Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy halted plans to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity, citing a lack of compliance over the use of masks and social distancing.
“Ocean City has seen an increased volume of trash due in part to the takeout and outdoor dining requirements,” city Public Information Officer Doug Bergen said. “The city has greatly increased the frequency of trash pickup routes.”
Bergen added the city has provided special receptacles for pizza boxes, and it’s been working with merchants to develop ways to reduce the bulk of takeout containers.
In previous summers, Bergen said, two two-person teams made periodic runs down the Boardwalk to empty trash and recycling bins. Now, four two-person crews continuously loop the Boardwalk.
“In addition, two supervisors patrol the Boardwalk and are available to address trash and other issues in need of immediate attention,” Bergen said.