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More litter is popping up on SC roads. Here’s why and what’s being done.

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 11:51 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over the past few years, we’ve extensively covered litter and illegal dumping in the Midlands.

These days, South Carolina roads...are looking rough.

“Right now, it’s daunting,” said Sarah Lyles of Palmetto Pride. “It’s a daunting task.”

Litter has always been a problem, but why do things look so much worse these days?

South Carolina Department of Transportation officials say folks are eating out more, and then tossing the bags and boxes.

“Eating out, there are just more disposable plates,” said Brittany Harriot of SCDOT. “Even masks and gloves, we’re finding.”

On top of that, clean-up crews from the Department of Corrections that you would normally see taking care of our roads and highways haven’t been out because of COVID-19 safety precautions.

“We’re not going to put them in harm’s way,” said director Bryan Stirling. “We’re not going to put our officer, who would be in the van with them, in harm’s way...that’s 220 inmates that are supposed to be out there cleaning, but we stopped everything back when COVID started.”

So with more litter being tossed, and fewer crews picking it up, what’s the solution?

“We do need our elected officials at all levels to understand that, we don’t want to pay for litter pick up, but it’s just got to happen,” Lyles said. “Or we’re going to pay for it one way or another.”

When it comes to litter laws in our state, leaders at Palmetto Pride say, those are actually strong. They say, what we need now, is more enforcement.

“We need more tickets being written,” Lyles said. “We have good enforcement officers, we just don’t have enough. We have about 100 for the state, and that’s just not enough.”

As volunteers and local/state leaders try to find ways to clean things up, the easiest way for all of us to improve the roadways is making sure they don’t get messy in the first place.

“Anywhere you go, they are probably going to have a trash can,” Lyles said. “There’s just no reason to litter.”

The teams from Palmetto Pride did note that there are plenty of areas around our state where roads and highways are being taken care of, adding that around this time of year, the low vegetation makes trash more visible.

If you’d like to pitch in with clean-up efforts, you can learn more about volunteering by clicking here.

We reached out to some of the counties in our viewing area to find out how they’re tackling the issue.

In Richland County, officials say roadside litter is picked up every day by the Special Services Division, as long as weather permits. Officials tell us they’ve also added temporary employees to offset the absence of the inmate crews.

In Sumter County, Communications Coordinator Joe Perry says, in a few days, county council will actually be voting on a proposed ordinance that would create a Litter Advisory board between the city and county to help confront the issue.

Over in Orangeburg County, officials say a total of 386 hours of community service were given by the courts for litter control citations in 2019. They say, right now court isn’t being held for litter control due to COVID-19. But officials tell us enforcement teams are still writing citations, and those will go to court when things open back up.

In Lexington County, officials say they collected 22 tons of bagged litter in 2020, which comes out to nearly 46,000 pounds. Last April, they tell us the county exceeded DHEC’s yearly waste reduction and recycling goals for the second year in a row.

We are still waiting to hear back from Newberry and Fairfield County officials regarding their plans.

In the coming days and weeks, we will have continued coverage with more on how local leaders plan to address this issue, and how you can help.

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