Orangeburg County is working to organize every citizen in the fight against litter with an upcoming countywide litter challenge scheduled April 13-27.
The county Litter Control Department at 1347 Amelia St. will provide bags for the two-week long pickup and will collect the garbage after the bags have been filled.
The cleanup will take place across the entire county.
Interested individuals can contact the County Litter Control office by phone at 803-533-6162 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and be provided bags, grabbers and vests.
This year's cleanup will include a bit of friendly competition, with the group or individual picking up the most trash receiving a $100 VISA gift card.
"We're looking at a couple of different ways to get people excited about what they do and what they've been able to accomplish. We're going to make it a competition that also raises awareness and improves the quality of life," County Planning Director Richard Hall said.
"So County Administrator Harold Young has offered to present this $100 VISA gift card as a small token of appreciation to the group that does pick up the most trash during this event," he said.
Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith, chairperson of the Orangeburg County Litter Campaign Committee, said it takes a countywide arsenal of volunteers to help clean up the more than 1,100-square-mile county.
"We're encouraging volunteers from all over the county to participate in this countywide cleanup. This is home! I just think people's mindsets should be different. Regardless of where they live, if they throw trash out in Orangeburg County, just think of throwing it in your own back yard or front yard," Cooper-Smith said.
"These cleanups are important because the image of a town and the people that live there can easily be given by the way a county looks. Litter is very unsightly. We don't want to give people the impression that we are dirty and unwelcoming when they come into Orangeburg. ... We should take pride in where we live," she said.
Litter can also be reported by calling or emailing the county litter control office.
Hall has said the county has benefited from a new anti-litter ordinance that has stiffened the penalties for litter bugs and was approved by Orangeburg County Council in December 2017.
The ordinance raises the maximum penalty for littering from $500 up to $1,000 and clearly defines when those penalties have to be given.
Cooper-Smith said the ordinance, which has been updated, has produced results.
"Since the litter ordinance has been updated, the magistrates have been really working well with us. Depending on how much garbage a person throws out, they may be assigned community service. But if a lot of garbage is thrown out, they may have to pay a fine and assigned community service," she said.
Hall said, "We wanted to clarify that community service is a big portion of what we're after. It defines that we write tickets for these litter violators as a deterrent. But at the end of the day, our main focus is to get our roadways and county as a whole free from litter. So beyond just paying a fine or fee, we feel like it's a better answer to have those violators out on roadways cleaning up litter and trash. That was the main focus of the ordinance update."
Hall said as the county continues to try to raise public awareness to the issue, the upcoming countywide cleanup focuses more on individuals cleaning the areas in which they live "versus maybe sending you to another community across the county that you're not interested in because that's not where you live, work and play."
County Litter Control Officer Susan West said the countywide cleanup will hopefully make a difference in reducing the amount of litter lining roadways.
"You don't have to be a group to participate. Anyone that's interested can call our office at 803-533-6162 to get bags, vests or whatever's needed," West said.
"They just need to call in and let us know what road they're cleaning. When they've finished, we will send someone to pick up the bags. All of the people that are trying to fight the litter issues in the county all try to work together to make the county a more attractive place to come to," she said.
Diane Curlee, a member of Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful, also serves as education coordinator of the Orangeburg County Conservation District.
She said individuals interested in the cleanup can also pick up supplies at the KOCB office at 1550 Henley St., Room 103.
"If they call us, we can also bring supplies to them. We can deliver bags to town halls. So if the town want bags, they can have people to come to the town hall to get them. We're trying to make this as easy as we can so everybody can be involved," Curlee said.
She said the effort is needed.
"Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. One of the things we have to do for them is a litter survey for our entire county. That litter survey points out that we have a litter problem not just in one location in the county, but all over the county. Our point with this is to get everybody involved in picking up litter," Curlee said.
She said Earth Day, April 22, is purposefully included in the countywide cleanup so individuals can "show appreciation for our planet."
Cooper-Smith said the next meeting of the county Litter Campaign Committee will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 4, on the second floor of the Orangeburg County Administration Building.