A cursory glance at our roadside ditches tells you what you need to know about littering here.
There's far too much of it, especially in a locale that prides itself and sells itself on its natural beauty.
This month's campaign to crack down on littering is welcome. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies will be on the watch and ready to issue tickets. Small-time offenders (less than 15 pounds or 27 cubic feet in volume) face a misdemeanor fine of between $200 and $300 under state law. That's a lot to pay to toss a cup or fast-food bag out of your window or forget to secure that load of trash headed to the dump in the back of your pickup truck.
Deputies also will be stationed at several of the county's drop-off centers to make sure that trash there is disposed of properly.
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But that's not where the problem is. It's largely along our roads. And the numbers add up:
And it's just not appearances at risk. Debris along our roads can be dangerous for local bicyclists, who are increasing in number.
But littering isn't confined to our roadsides, as anyone who visits local beaches and waterways can attest. Volunteers in our annual beach and river sweeps haul in thousands of pounds of trash each year.
In 2011, nearly 3,500 pounds of trash were collected along waterways and on beaches across Beaufort County, according to the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, which works with the state Department of Natural Resources to stage the annual cleanups. In 2010, more than 2,600 pounds of trash were picked up, and in 2009, more than 8,600 pounds. (Note: This year's Beach Sweep/River Sweep is set for Sept. 15.)
A recent letter writer, who worked at a national recycling company, told us that South Carolina had a reputation as a "throw-away" state because of its residents' penchant for littering and its lowest-in-the-country recycling rate. He also rightly notes that little has changed.
We can improve that reputation. All it takes is a little thought, discipline and consideration from more of us.