Garvey Heiderman and his company, Ocean Compost LLC, are networking with resort leaders to ensure a more sustainable future for Ocean City
Written by Kristen Hampshire | Photography by Grant L. Gursky
Composting food waste is one proactive step toward preserving the coastal environment while diverting recyclables from a Pennsylvania incinerator to which Ocean City transports trash for its waste-to-energy operation. At the helm of Ocean Compost LLC is Garvey Heiderman, who began connecting with Ocean City officials and performing due diligence on a waste-composting program in 2018.
“We realized that composting food waste from the restaurant was low-hanging fruit and a place to start,” says Heiderman, owner at The Hobbit Restaurant. He also serves as director of compost operations for Go Green OC, a nonprofit environmental organization focused on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and especially Ocean City.
Heiderman and Go Green OC’s founder and executive director, Josh Chamberlain, have been working hand in hand during the last four years on the compost initiative; it’s a passion project for both of them.
So far, Ocean Compost LLC’s efforts are making an impact. In 2020, with The Hobbit Restaurant alone, the organization recycled six tons of food waste.
Doing their part for the environment are, from left, Angel Kontra, Josh Chamberlain, Garvey Heiderman and Alyssa Howard.
In 2021, the group added three more restaurants to the mix and composted 40 tons. Now, there are about a dozen participants in the program, including a florist with plant waste. Some of the other restaurants involved include Bayside Skillet, Longboard Café, Fishtales, Real Raw Organics, Mother’s Cantina, Bonfire, Dough Roller and Annabelle’s BBQ & Creamery.
So far this year, Ocean Compost LLC has recycled 80,000 pounds of food waste into renewable compost. It is on track to divert a quarter-million pounds of food waste this summer, Heiderman says.
Together, with Go Green OC’s ambitious goal to make Ocean City the first zero-waste resort town in the country, “We look at composting as the first way to start,” Heiderman says. If food waste isn’t composted, the alternatives are to bury or burn it. Now with an agreement between Ocean Composting LLC and Ocean City, rather than transporting food waste to an incinerator, the city pays the same fee to Ocean Compost for the food waste they remove from the waste stream, which allows it to continue growing the program and encouraging sustainable practices without costing the town anything extra. It’s a win-win.
Heiderman says, “We live in a beach town, and there is a ton of people who really care about the environment, so we look at this as a way to create a mechanism to allow people to help the environment.” CS