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Is the interior of South Carolina trashier than the coast?
It sure looks that way, one state senator says.
Sen. Sandy Senn, a Republican from Charleston, says coastal communities are doing more to address litter than many other communities in South Carolina.
“It is in the interior of the state and it is in the rural parts of our state where I see the most litter,’’ Senn said. “It is the most trashy. My observation is along the coast, it’s actually cleaner. And there is a reason for that because we put effort into it along the coast, where, though, I think we need effort statewide.’’
Senn made her comments during a heated discussion last week over whether the state Legislature should prevent cities and counties from banning plastic bags, the handy shopping sacks that are major sources of litter. Senn made the point that local communities should have the right to ban plastic bags, while the Legislature needs to address the statewide litter problem.
Most of the plastic bag bans in South Carolina have been adopted in coastal cities, which Senn said has helped reduce litter in those areas. The Senate voted 27-15 last week to let local governments continue banning plastic bags.
Many people agree with Senn’s stance on plastic bags and the need to pick up trash, but state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said litter is a problem everywhere, not just in the state’s interior.
“If you drive down to Myrtle Beach is that cleaner? I don’t think so. But what I would say is we all need to be focused on litter and the trash.’’
Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler said his organization participates in multiple trash pickup efforts, often spending days cleaning litter from the river that winds from Columbia to Congaree National Park. Jacq Buck, director at Keep the Midlands Beautiful, said her group also does plenty of volunteer cleanups.
“We are definitely doing our part,’’ Buck said.
Senn said her comments weren’t meant to insult anyone in the state’s interior, but to raise the point that South Carolina isn’t doing enough to address its overall trash problem. She said a key concern is on rural highways that don’t get much attention. The Legislature spends little money on the war on trash — but it should put in more, she said.
Palmetto Pride, an anti-litter group, receives about $2.2 million from the Legislature annually, Senn said.
“It is very much a drop in the bucket,’’ she said. “We are going to have to spend money to make our state look better.’’
Senn’s comments last week aren’t the first questioning South Carolina’s litter control efforts.
Soon after he was hired 20 years ago as football coach at the University of South Carolina, Lou Holtz complained that state residents didn’t have enough pride in themselves to keep litter off the highways. His comment set off efforts to clean up the litter across South Carolina.
Michael Covington, a lobbyist who represents the anti-litter group Palmetto Pride, said the state has made good strides in attacking the litter problem with volunteers. But the Legislature doesn’t spend enough money for paid trash crews to attack the problem, he said.