Agencies in York County want to make a message clear: There's zero tolerance on littering.
As part of an annual statewide initiative, the York County Sheriff's Office is working with PalmettoPride, the South Carolina Litter Control Association, York County Solid Waste Collections and Recycling, York County Solid Waste Disposal and other law enforcement agencies this month to stop littering.
"York County is committed to combating the negative effects of litter by education, prevention and by actively enforcing litter laws throughout the year," Sheriff Bruce M. Bryant said.
During the campaign, officers around the state will target enforcement on frequently littered areas, dumpsites and forests, as well as monitor for the illegal transport of litter.
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Wednesday, deputies conducted a public safety checkpoint near the York County landfill looking for people transporting unsecured trash.
Not properly securing loads of trash and other items isn't just littering, Lt. Mike Baker said; it also could cause traffic and public safety hazards if it flew off the back of a vehicle. Injury crashes and even fatalities have resulted from loose pieces of lumber or shingles or other trash not being secured and covered during transport to the landfill.
In South Carolina, the leading source of litter is trash from unsecured loads in commercial and personal-use vehicles.
During a three-hour checkpoint Wednesday, deputies stopped 127 vehicles near the landfill, Baker said. Officers issued 12 citations and 16 warnings. Some of the citations were for transporting loads of trash uncovered, Baker said. Others citations were for traffic-related offenses.
It's the fourth time this month the sheriff's office has conducted public safety checkpoints with an emphasis on education about safely transporting trash, Baker said. Additional checkpoints will be held later this month.
For more than a decade, PalmettoPride has been involved in a two-fold program that emphasizes education about littering and enforcement, said public relations manager Sarah Lyles.
"People think of littering as a nuisance, but it's more. It's against the law," Lyles said. "It affects almost every aspect of people's lives."
Litter can cause environmental hazards, pose safety threats and even demean property values, she said.
Penalties for violating South Carolina litter laws range from $470 to over $1,000 and include mandatory community service.
Police have to catch someone littering in the act or trace illegally dumped items to someone to actually cite them. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't report someone you see tossing an empty can from the car window.
Call the Litterbug Hotline at 877-7litter to report the driver, Lyles said. PalmettoPride will send the owner of the vehicle a courtesy letter explaining the penalties for and dangers of littering.