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Thank you, South Carolina!
At the end of the year, it is customary to reflect on all the accomplishments and setbacks, big and small. The past year was no different, although the challenges were. I don’t think anyone thought that COVID would have such an impact on litter prevention. Disposable masks and gloves entered into our waste stream. Single use products came back in full force. Take-out food increased opportunities for litter. Recreation took people to the great outdoors but it seems that “carry-in-, carry-out” didn’t quite carry through. We faced workplace shutdowns preventing maintenance and pickup of grounds and roads.
Education, enforcement, and pickup are solutions to changing behaviors that create litter. PalmettoPride knows firsthand these tactics work. We are blessed with an extensive network of partners – volunteers, government agencies, environmental non-profits and concerned citizens – who are in our communities, working to change behaviors that create litter.
Litter prevention is not easy, even during a year when we aren’t facing a global pandemic. From my perspective, South Carolina came together in a way that I’ve not seen in our 20 years and we are winning.
Celebrating Big Accomplishments
Together, we figured out how to get messaging into schools virtually. We stepped up to pick up. We pushed limits. We asked tough questions and received feedback – some good, some bad. We joined forces, made new friends, and collaborated on efforts.
Record numbers of volunteers are picking up litter throughout the state. In fact, our network of local programs has grown and now there are litter control or other community improvement organizations in every county. We had more volunteer supply requests during 2021 than ever before. We announced our first statewide litter crew grant for pickup this year. The General Assembly included funding for SCDOT litter pickup for the first time.
PalmettoPride now has 36 Keep America Beautiful affiliates in our state network. Last year, our pre-certified affiliates comprised 20% of the national organization’s new groups.
We represented the state on national level webinars, in media stories and at conferences. In addition to Keep South Carolina Beautiful and PalmettoPride, three local affiliates also presented on their programs at the national KAB conference. South Carolina is recognized as a leader in the national fight against litter.
Enforcement is the most difficult tactic because it is not easy to catch a litterer in the act. Adding COVID into the mix resulted in fewer officers in the field with more backlogs of court cases. There are approximately 100 dedicated litter control officers in the state, not nearly enough. Through PalmettoPride grants, local governments see first-hand the benefits of litter control and are funding programs in their own counties.
South Carolina has experienced a rapid population growth in the past 20 years. More people equals more trash haulers, more construction trucks, more traffic, and more unsecured loads. Roads that once connected rural communities to cities are now overloaded with cars. This often makes it unsafe for volunteers to clean up and too busy to stop traffic for road crews to pick up.
Not unique to SC, but we exist in a global culture for single use items and a worldwide challenge of what to do with the enormous amount of solid waste produced by society’s consumerism. COVID set back many gains in the regulation of single use items.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Ending the year, we will launch a new webinar series, The Point, with Lt. Gov. Evette and representatives from across the state who work alongside us in litter prevention. We will discuss the successes, the challenges, how litter impacts the economy and more. Mark your calendars for December 15th at 11:00 a.m.
PalmettoPride will jump into the new year with two big events: Lake Moultrie Cleanup for MLK Day of Service with Keep Berkeley County Beautiful and Santee Cooper and our 15th annual Francis Marion National Forest Cleanup on February 5th.
Together we can change the environmental landscape. We hope you will join us.