Talking Trash

Esther Wagner talks about litter and the problems that it causes.
Photo by Melissa Rollins

Lunch and learn gives insight to cost of trash on South Carolina communities

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Litter is more than just an annoyance; it can actually be dangerous. During a recent Darlington Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn, a representative of Palmetto Pride explained the benefits of keeping your streets and town safe.

Esther Wagner gave facts and figures that highlight the fact that litter costs billions of dollars annually to clean up.

At the beginning of her presentation, Wagner asked participants what they thought the number one most littered item was. Many answered cigarette butts and Wagner said that that is both in number and in volume.

“The number two most littered is a beverage container,” Wagner said. “Think about the size of a bottle of beer and the size of a cigarette butt. If you had all the cigarette butts that are littered in the world all in one pile and all the bottles in another pile, that pile of cigarettes would be larger.”

Unsecured loads in vehicles is the number one cause of unintentional littering.

“In a recent poll, 75 percent of Americans said that they have littered in the last five years,” Wager said. “Not all of that is intentional of course but unintentional litter is still litter.”

Wager said that filling garbage cans to overflow, whether at home or while out, is considered littering because there is no guarantee that the trash will stay in the can and not be taken by an animal or a gust of wind.

“The law actually says that you have to dispose of your litter in a way that ensures that it is secure,” Wagner said.

A few things that Wagner said people don’t always consider when littering is that litter eventually ends up in the water, which ends up in us.

“Why does it matter if there is trash in the ocean,” Wagner asked. “Because what goes in the ocean eventually goes in us. They have done research on fish and ever fish they have done research on in the last ten years has had plastic in it.”

Wagner also said that litter decreases property value and encourages crime.

“Criminals look for neighborhoods with litter because it looks like no one cares,” Wager said.

After laying out the problems with litter and how they affect everyone, Wager suggested ways to help combat that in Darlington and Darlington County using the four pillars of Palmetto Pride: Education, Awareness, Enforcement and Pickup.

• Have a cohesive litter abatement plan in your community.

• Have law enforcement and judges work together to write and enforce fines.

• Do a litter survey. Pick three or four roads in your community and take note of the trash. Once the abate plans are in place, do periodic surveys to see how it is working.

• Host community clean-up days.

• Adopt a road or highway. Commit to cleaning it several times a year.

• Report people littering.
• Show appreciation for those helping to keep communities clean and show the results of your work.

Wager said that resources are available for organizations and municipalities, including grants. For more information about Palmetto Pride or to find resources for your community, visit

Author: Duane Childers

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