Taking a different approach to litter
by The Press and Standard | March 21, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: March 20, 2019 at 8:50 am
Keep Colleton Beautiful is taking a fresh approach to an old problem —Colleton County’s litter.
The new concept began on March 16, as volunteers gathered at the Coastal Electric Cooperative’s Coastal Outback building, ready to spend the morning ridding the roadways around the Jefferies Highway facility of litter.
This marked the first time that KCB has held a litter cleanup in an area of the county that was to host a public event. In this case, the roadways leading to Coastal Electric Cooperative were getting a cleaning in the days leading up to Smoke in the Boro, the barbeque competition held on the Coastal Electric grounds.
Ladson Fishburne, chairman of KCB said Walterboro’s City Appearance Board, usually does a litter collection program before events expected to draw a large number of visitors — events like the Colleton County Rice Festival.
“This is the first time that Keep Colleton Beautiful is cleaning ahead of a large event as a group. We are currently in the process of developing a more detailed calendar listing cleanup dates and locations based on local events and mowing which we will release to the public,” he said.
The idea is to have different volunteer groups target specific locations ahead of events. KCB will also contact businesses located on roadways that are scheduled to be mowed and request that they clear their locations of litter prior to the mowing. “The structure is simple if we get the support,” Fishburne explained.
The cleanup held leading up this year’s Smoke In the Boro found that support.
Dana Cheney, chairman of Walterboro’s City Appearance Board, spent Saturday morning manning the cleanup headquarters in Coastal Electric’s parking lot.
He said 40 volunteers joined the effort, collecting a total of 106 garbage bags of roadside litter; they amassed 870 pounds of trash.
The teams working Tuskegee Airmen Drive accounted for 500 pounds of roadway debris. The litter volunteers also cleared portions of Jefferies Highway, Academy Road and Robertson Boulevard.
The simple structure of the special cleanups begins with Keep Colleton Beautiful notifying businesses and groups about an event location or a scheduled mowing. Then KCB will provide the litter cleanup tools and supplies to the group or business prior to the event and have the groups and businesses clean up prior to the event. When the cleanup is completed, KCB will then retrieve the tools and supplies to keep the cycle going.
“The logic is that if we make the supplies readily available, tell them when to clean up and why, they will be more likely to contribute,” Fishburne explained.
“When outside visitors come to Colleton County, we want them to think that our community members take pride in our county,” he said. When “businesses are looking to move to the area, they look for roadside litter as a direct reflection of the community workforce.”
If trashed roadways greet those business officials, he said they might think “if the community is littered, then the community members do not put in the extra effort to keep it clean; therefore, they would probably not put in the extra effort working at their business.”
In a perfect plan, Fishburne said, “we should target every event within the community, from a Live Oak Cemetery tour to the Rice Festival. We have to maintain a clean community for community members to enjoy. The events’ schedule is to get ahead, when a high volume of people will be in one location or travelling to Colleton at once. As they enter the county and see ‘Now Entering Colleton County’ or ‘Welcome to Walterboro’ and there is a lot of roadside litter, it is a negative image on the community. This is what KCB is hoping to resolve.”
Although the KCB Board is still formulating that plan, Fishburne said, “it will take more planning and participation than we have ever had before.” Current board members are Fishburne, Karen Hinen, Deborah Hardwick, Ceth Utsey and Cheney. “There are several open positions on our committee and we could use the help of anyone interested in continuing our mission,” Fishburne said.
“Luckily, the regional Earth Day Cleanup is before the Rice Festival weekend, which we will also consider when picking locations,” he said. For that project, KCB will work with Walterboro’s City Appearance Board. In addition to Cheney joining the KBC board, Fishburne is a member of the city’s appearance board.
Both groups are involved in a second change in how Colleton County will address its litter problem.
At Colleton County Council’s March 5 meeting, Fishburne and Beaufort County Councilmember Dr. Paul Sommerville came to council with a plan.
They wanted Colleton County Council to consider joining Beaufort County in its endeavor to establish a regional cleanup day to be held in conjunction with Earth Day.
County Administrator Kevin Griffin said that Beaufort County has been conducting its litter cleanup program on Earth Day (April 22) for a number of years and decided to reach out to other neighboring counties to ask them to join in.
After hearing from Fishburne and Sommerville, county council members expressed interest in joining the regional approach and directed Griffin to begin putting that effort together.
Fishburne said Beaufort County “already had proof that the event was successful. Everything was documented and available for Colleton to replicate in order to successfully plan our own event. In one day, they had 300+ volunteers pick up over 1,000 pounds of litter throughout their community. That is huge!
“They were so successful because everyone, including several outside organizations and sponsors, came together to support the initiative,” he said. “My original thoughts were that they have more volunteers and support than Keep Colleton Beautiful. We are currently in a restructuring year, but there is no way that we are going to miss out on such a great opportunity.
“I told them that Keep Colleton Beautiful is all in and I will find the volunteers and the support that we need. Beaufort County even offered to send 20 volunteers and a truck to pick up in Colleton if we could not get the support. That showed me how serious they were about including Colleton, and they are the type of neighboring county Colleton is lucky to have,” he said.
“In my opinion, one of the main benefits of partnering with our surrounding counties is to show how we can support our neighbors and work together to better our communities,” Fishburne said. “By working together, we are able to get more volunteers to clean a larger portion of the Lowcountry, which we have to protect from litter pollution.”
Beaufort County decided to stick with Earth Day as the date of its countywide cleanup effort, even though April 22 is a Monday. Colleton County is going to follow their lead, Fishburne said, “but if volunteers cannot make the April 22nd date, Keep Colleton Beautiful will be happy to provide supplies for those who want to pick up the weekend before. They can get in touch with me through our Facebook page.
“There will be one mutual location where one group from each county will meet and pick up litter together. We are working those details out right now, but information will be posted on our (Facebook) events page soon. Our goal is to have enough volunteers to spread out in Colleton and clean locations that we have never cleaned before,” Fishburne said.
In the next two weeks, the organizers will decide where the meeting points will be located and which roads will be cleaned. “At all meeting locations, we will have supplies, water, food and shirts for volunteers. We are currently looking for sponsors who can donate food, water or event tents for the day,” Fishburne added.
KCB has asked community leaders to get involved and support the event. In those conversations, Fishburne said, “I highlighted that this is a great opportunity for Colleton County to be part of a regional event that will be recognized on a state level. Palmetto Pride, the state affiliate, is involved and helping with marketing, providing supplies and other support that we request.”
Since the Earth Day cleanup comes on a business day, “we are going to ask businesses to participate by having employees pick up around the business on that day.
“With a large group effort, participation will be at an all-time high and this will be a big step towards a clean community.”