Anyone can be a litter buster and help PalmettoPride, South Carolina’s collaborative effort to reduce trash on the roads and beautify the landscape statewide.
Besides highway billboards across the state with such messages as “Our state isn’t an ashtray. Litter trashes everyone. Report a litterbug,” locally, on the drive to the gate in Myrtle Beach State Park, visitors will see a sign about the “Litter Busters Hotline,” which encourages everyone to call 877-7-LITTER (754-8837), or visit palmettopride.org, to share details after seeing any trash tossed from a vehicle with S.C. license plates.
Through assistance for Columbia-based PalmettoPride from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and S.C. Department of Public Safety, owners of a car or truck stated in a litter report are later mailed a letter reminding them that littering is unlawful and that if witnessed by a police officer or state trooper, the offense could lead to a fine or jail time. State law shows that upon an offender’s conviction, the minimum penalty is $200, plus court costs.
Citizens who file a report online will receive a thank-you email for “helping to move us closer toward a cleaner, greener South Carolina.”
Sarah Lyles, Palmetto Pride spokeswoman and director of Keep South Carolina Beautiful, elaborated on the mutilple-tier approach to reduce litter, through four ways: education of youth, teaming up with law enforcement, awareness that also shows possible economic development benefits, and with coordinated volunteer help, pickup of litter through clean sweeps.
Question | How long has PalmettoPride been punctuating its mission?
Answer | As long as I’ve been here, at least 13 years, since PalmettoPride started, probably in 2001.
Q. | How many reports through the Litter Busters Hotline are fielded every year?
A. | We have an average of 4,000. The number of litter reports has gone down. When we started, we had 8,000 people call per year. We’ve been averaging about 3,500 calls, and we do get them online. ...
Bunching them all together, with all our other ... projects, it kind of indicates that everything we’re doing is having a positive effect across the state.
Q. | Are there particular areas from which PalmettoPride hears the most?
A. | We do this in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, and their operating system can tell from where the call came in ... . We have a regional breakdown, but it only works for vehicles with S.C. tags, which is a problem in tourist areas.
Q. | What keeps this inititative intact as a nonstop job that goes on not just in tourist season, but the whole year?
A. | It’s a year-round effort; our mission is to eradicate litter and promote beautification in South Carolina. We work with all sorts of grass-roots organizations, and state and local government organizations, and through programs such as “Adopt-A-Highway,” “Keep America Beautiful” ... to create greenspaces and beautification projects around the state.
Q. | What forms of trash dominate the scene?
A. | Cigarette litter is a big issue.
Q. | What other ways of preventing litter merit reminders for people? How about parkgoers conscientious enough to bring home whatever garbage they generate for proper disposal?
A. | Some basic themes include taking out what you take in, although usually, wherever you go, there are places to dispose of trash. ...
We just want people to understand that litter isn’t necessary, and it’s just damaging to our environment, the community, to community safety, wildlife and water. Litter reaches into many areas; it’s not just unsightly.
Q. | Any special events on the calendar?
A. | We have the Beach Sweep/River Sweep every September; that’s a DNR project. Keep Horry County Beautiful folks have been doing a lot of cleanups around boat landings. And Adopt-A-Highway will have maybe two more cleanups the rest of this year. ...
We’re getting into schools. There’s always something going on. ...
There’s also Keep Georgetown Beautiful ... in the city, they do a lot of work with parks and are heavily involved with the Riverwalk right there. Also, Murrells Inlet 2020, which is super active; we have been working with them for years.
Q. | What’s the turnaround, with the DNR and Department of Public Safety doing their parts, after an alert is made to the Litter Buster Hotline or online?
A. | I know they do them every month; they might even do them every week. We always know when the letters go out, because people receiving them call us, so the notifications do go out fairly soon after. It’s one page. After you call the hotline, they email the information to the Department of Public Safety, and they take the tag information ... and mail the courtesy flier.
When those go out, we have people call in, and they say “Thank you so much ... I didn’t know ... ” The letters go to the owner of the car. ... Some people do get very scared, thinking it’s a ticket. ...
Unfortunately with litter prevention, it’s a never-ending job.