Question: I was recently appalled at the amount of litter on Interstate 85 – before and after Laurens Road. What does this say about our community, our city and our state? Are there resources available to help with this problem?
Answer: We can all agree that trash on our roads doesn’t send a good message about how we feel about our home, though if I had to, I’d wager most litter is unintentional.
South Carolina has a legislature-created anti-litter and beautification organization called Palmetto Pride. Sarah Lyles, with Palmetto Pride, shared some insights.
Believe it or not, Lyles said, litter has actually decreased in recent years.
“What has increased is the population, which has impacted development, construction and waste management transportation. Social media has helped to make people aware of the issue and be more vocal,” Lyles said via email
Litter is always more visible this time of year because vegetation is dormant, she said. Another factor this year, in particular, is that some areas rely on cleanup help from county inmate crews, and COVID restrictions have impacted that effort.
That said, Lyles tells me the short answer is we are all responsible for litter pickup, and we should pick it up when we see it.
The longer answer is more complicated. Enforcement is difficult, Lyles said, as there are roughly 100 litter control officers in the state, “not enough officers to make a dent in the possible enforcement cases.”
Lyles also said state infrastructure hasn’t caught up with population growth, and much of the cleanup effort relies on volunteers.
“Roads are maintained by the city, the county or the state. Litter pickup is not line-itemed (in the budget) in most cases,” Lyles said. “Litter pickup is not considered part of routine maintenance. We believe it should be.”
Lyles said Greenville County is among county governments that have created litter programs, including pickup. The county created a litter prevention program in 2017 that includes a “Litter Ends Here” app where residents can report litter to a crew that will work to clean it up.
Lyles said the Greenville County team has a crew of four and relies on help from volunteers. Since 2017, she said, the crew has removed nearly 1.5 million pounds of litter from the County.
Greenville County residents interested in getting involved in the effort can contact either Greenville County or Palmetto Pride.
Elizabeth LaFleur loves running, gardening, spending time with her husband and daughter and answering your questions. If you’re curious about something in the Upstate, chances are she is, too. Reach out to Elizabeth via email at email@example.com.