House bill passes that would reduce litter fines, DOT increases pick ups to handle trash problem

Trash near Columbia's Emergency Winter Shelter (Source: WIS)
Trash near Columbia's Emergency Winter Shelter (Source: WIS)
Trash along Atlantic Drive in Richland County (Source: WIS)
Trash along Atlantic Drive in Richland County (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - You don't have to go far to see trash on our roads in South Carolina.  Plastic cups, bags, and much more line the streets. The question is: what's being done?

One of the solutions is raising some questions as a new state bill proposes lower fines for littering.

WIS drove around areas in Richland County and Lexington County and while some areas appeared clean, others were swamped with pieces of litter. One of those locations where we found large amounts of trash is I-77 near Killian Road.

South Carolina Department of Transportation tells WIS that they will promptly address this area.

We also found trash on roads like Atlantic Drive, which connects to Broad River Road.

In downtown Columbia, trash was concentrated in an area near the city's emergency winter shelter.

In Lexington County, District 85 State Representative Chip Huggins says he's seen trash in his district along I-26 from the Chapin exit to Columbia. Huggins is one, among many, fighting a growing battle.

"I'd say we've had a trash issue," says Huggins.

He's one representative who voted to do something about the issue in a different way by lowering the fine for littering through SC House Bill 4458.

The bill was passed through the house with the majority of lawmakers voting in favor of the bill. The bill is now in the state senate where it could face a vote if it clears.

"The whole basis was that the fines had been too high so law enforcement had been hesitant to issue tickets and this will lower the fines and hopefully we will have more tickets issued for this terrible problem," says Huggins.

In South Carolina, the minimum litter fine is $200 plus court assessments. The Maximum fine is $1,087 plus court assessments. The new bill would turn misdemeanor convictions into a minimum of $25, and the amount would not exceed $100.

However, changing fines may not be enough. DOT tells WIS they are also increasing pick-ups from 6 times a year to 24 times a year. They are also going to be cutting grass more often which is a process that includes litter pickup.

Another move includes scheduling a spring and fall pickup, which is a state-wide clean sweep for every employee on every single road they maintain.

"They are trying to make that dollar go as far as they can," says Huggins.

Organizations like Palmetto Pride adopt highways and residents chip in as well.

"Sometimes the citizens pick it up, and makes it look nicer, but every area could be improved," says Dian Jolly who lives in Cayce.

Most of this issue really comes down to letting your local government and DOT know where these problem areas are.

Organizations like Palmetto Pride act as a resource center to send you to the right place. 

In response to this story, officials at the city of Columbia say "The City of Columbia Solid Waste Division combats litter in two ways. First, the City has two designated litter crews that service main thoroughfares on a rotating, weekly basis. These crews work the City from downtown to Monticello Road and out to Forest Drive collecting litter from the roadways and waste from bus stops. They cover a lot of ground during the week to help keep our city beautified and litter free.

The second way the City fights the litter issue is with the residential and commercial street sweeping program. Street sweepers clean up debris along the curb to help prevent litter from entering our storm water system.

When we litter, we introduce a pollutant to our environment that can be harmful to our rivers, streams and waterways. It's always important to pick up after ourselves to keep Columbia beautiful."

To report a litter issue within the City of Columbia limits, call the Solid Waste Division at 803-545-3800 or email

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