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S.C. crews ready to start tackling roadside litter problem

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 10:05 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Department of Transportation is \holding a massive statewide litter pickup as part of its “Spring Spruce Up” initiative.

The agency says hundreds of their employees will be picking up litter in their first of two annual pickup events.

Organizers say employees and volunteers will be leaving from agency headquarters and county offices starting this morning, and they ask drivers to use caution when near teams.

It comes as people across the state have noticed South Carolina roads are looking rough.

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

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

On top of that, cleanup 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.”

While litter is a statewide problem, Aiken-area residents like Stacie Simpkins have been working to address the issue.

She and Marianne Yost founded a nonprofit dedicated to tackling the problem in the Aiken area. They formed a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/449705456461802) and within a day or two had hundreds of members.

“You look at the ground and it’s covered with trash,” Simpkins said. “It really, truly is a statewide problem.”

She said she moved to the area in 2014, “and it’s getting progressively worse.”

She said officials have committed to putting up signs wo warn against littering.

In addition to enforcing anti-litter laws, it’s about changing the culture so people won’t litter, she says.

“It starts at home,” she said.

“Kids learn from their parents.”

That’s why one focus is the group is the schools. She hopes that if kids see their parents littering, they’ll speak out.

Another idea is having a competition between schools to see which kids can come up with the best design for a sign.

“At end of the day, it needs to be dealt with,” she said.

Last week, Friends of the Animal Shelter and the Aiken County Animal Shelter partnered with Clean Up Aiken for a cleanup of litter and trash from the side of Wire Road and around the shelter property.

From reports by WCSC, WRDW/WAGT and WIS