HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The litter index results shows Horry County's litter problem has gotten worse, despite appearing to improve the last four years.
The Keep Horry County Beautiful Committee completes the litter index every year, ranking the amount of litter and illegal signage in randomly chosen and surveyed areas. The ranking is a 1-4 scale. One is great, meaning areas show virtually no litter and no signage. Four is bad, indicating an area shows a "continuous amount of litter. Litter is the first thing noticed," according to the committee's chairman.
Last year, the county ranked a 1.8. This year, the county ranked a 2.15 overall. There were more than 100 roads and areas ranked in Horry County to come up with that average. Bo Ives, the committee chairman, says there is a litter control program in place now, and volunteer efforts are higher than ever. But, even with that, the score is still worse.
This year, the county tried something new. They surveyed the county in March, instead of in June like normal. This change is important because the committee says getting a lower score in March indicates it may be more residents that aren't caring for the land, instead of placing all the blame on tourists.
"That's a bad sign. If the residents don't care, who will? And it's a shame that our visitors also disrespect. But they only show respect because the residents don't show respect," says Ives.
Since the Keep Horry Beautiful Committee started, there's been a county department started for litter control, but they're funded 60 percent off the accommodations tax. So, since tourists fund more than half, much of their time is spent clearing major roadways that tourists drive in on.
White Oak Lane in Aynor, Dog Bluff Road in Galivants Ferry, Enterprise Road in Socastee and West Dogwood Road in Loris were the only places that scored 4's when it came to litter. There were no 4's for illegal signage. When it came to litter, there were good and bad areas in every community. Last year, Ives says boat landings were the absolute worst areas, so the committee doubled efforts to get them clean. That was successful, because there was only one boat landing that was a problem this year.
Now county leaders are warning, if you don't take litter seriously, you can face serious consequences, and they're trying to toughen up their approach to enforcing those regulations. Now, Ives says the committee will present the findings of this year's index at Horry County Council on Tuesday, April 7. A lot is riding on that meeting. The committee will ask council to redouble enforcement on littering.
If you're caught littering or dumping trash, you face up to a $1,000 fine. Ives believes if it is enforced, people will realize it's not just about polluting the environment with their waste, but something that could cost them a paycheck.
"County council doesn't want to raise taxes to clean up after everyone. They want everyone to clean up after themselves. So they'd like to see a redoubling of enforcement. And the police, when you talk to them anecdotally, they're demoralized because they will go to court and the magistrates won't take the charges seriously," says Ives. He wants the council to talk with court magistrates to give litter enforcement a priority.
If you want to get involved, here is a list of upcoming cleanups:
Great American Cleanup – March 1 thru May 31, 2015
Baby Animal Day at Playcard – April 10
Cleanup at Vereen Memorial Historic Gardens – April 18 @ 10 AM
Earth Day at the Bay – April 18 @ 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Cleanup at Ocean Bay Schools – April 18 @ 1:30 PM
Statewide Cleanup – Keep SC Beautiful/Palmetto Pride – April 18 – 25
Cleanup at Enterprise Landing – April 25
Little River RiverSweep at Johnny Causey Boat Landing – April 25
Cleanup in Shell Community – April 25
Believe it or not, when it comes to litter, there's an app for that. Ives says the county is in the test phase of a smartphone app that will help you report litter and dump sites. It's called TrashOut.
All you have to do is as you drive or walk up on a road that's particularly bad or something that looks like a dump site, pull out your phone, and the app walks you through taking a picture. Then it will prompt you to determine the size and type of litter and any extra details about the trash. It will then send a GPS location of the reported litter. All this info will then go to the Horry County Environmental Services Department. The committee says this app will help make it easier to get the litter cleaned up quickly.
You can submit it anonymously. The app is up and running right now, and it is free. It is currently in test mode for the county, but it is already a state-run program.