Litter is expensive, both in terms of cleanup and community impact. If getting rid of it is as big a priority as so many say, volunteer efforts must be supported by a state willing to be tough on offenders and a citizenry that refuses to accept life amid the debris.

Uncovered vehicles are the No. 1 source of roadside litter in South Carolina, according to research conducted by Keep America Beautiful.

Although South Carolina state law says no vehicle shall be driven on any public highway unless it is loaded or covered to prevent its load from dropping, escaping or shifting, unsecured loads still contribute to more than 20 percent of roadside debris. Uncovered pickups, commercial trucks and trailers will usually have materials blowing or bouncing out.

In enforcing the law, special attention should be given to roadways and highways around county landfills and sites for solid waste collection and recycling. Vehicle operators transporting uncovered loads are responsible and can be charged with littering for any trash or debris that blows out of their vehicle onto the road or along the highway.

Carrying uncovered debris should be dealt with on the roads and at the dump site, where such loads could be reported. An initial warning for educational purposes would be followed by a citation. Call that the stick.

Meanwhile, PalmettoPride, the state’s anti-litter organization, is addressing the issue of uncovered loads with a carrot.

PalmettoPride has announced a plan to distribute 5,000 tarps to nine counties. Orangeburg and Bamberg counties are on the list to receive some of the available tarps.

“Tarp campaigns bring awareness to drivers on state litter laws and puts the power of prevention in the citizens’ hands,” PalmettoPride Executive Director Sarah Lyles said in a press release. “Our goal is to change the behavior that creates litter.”

If positive results are noted, PalmettoPride plans to make the tarp campaign an ongoing effort with counties across the state interested in participating.

Tourism and economic development are adversely affected when litter is unchecked. And public funds must be spent to clean up after litterers.

The solution to South Carolina’s litter problem is proper handling of solid waste by people. Everyone is encouraged to be careful with trash and to help make our state cleaner.

Citizens must understand the problem and how it can be remedied. Curbing the number of uncovered loads could make a noticeable difference.

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