With our mayoral and council elections now past, it is my hope that this newest iteration of Town Council will participate in productive trash talk instead of the kind I saw happening in various Summerville social media groups leading up to elections. Our litter and solid waste management issues are growing. A quick walk or drive around Summerville and these issues are clearly visible on our streets, in our drainage systems, and on display at our frequent downtown events.
This year, Keep Dorchester County Beautiful & Dorchester County Litter Enforcement secured grants through Palmetto Pride to hire temporary crews to clean up litter in Dorchester County. The grant recently ended. They covered 92 miles of road and picked up 24.75 tons of litter! In March, volunteers pulled over 4 tons of litter from the Ashley River. In October, volunteers pulled a truck load of litter from the sides of Berlin G. It’s a lot easier to dispose of trash correctly the first time than it is to pull it out from our ditches. These numbers are not isolated. Volunteers frequently pull literally tons of trash from our roadways.
After attending and organizing litter clean ups for 3+ years now, a few things have become increasingly clear. First, Summerville needs a more comprehensive understanding of our solid waste management issues; This requires research of both our current and future needs. Second, we need a litter prevention and awareness plan. Summerville would also benefit from closer partnerships with the counties. There are many small steps we can individually and collectively take towards overall solid waste reduction.
I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering many times at Keep Dorchester County Beautiful’s booth at our farmers market. We’ve had countless conversations with residents who want to recycle but feel that their options are anything but convenient. We are consistently asked when full recycling pick-up will be available to all of Summerville and what the town is doing to prevent litter. We need our elected officials to start delving into these important conversations.
Last year the Summerville Beautification Committee and Keep Dorchester County Beautiful sent copies of The Wartville Wizard to every elementary school in D2 & D4. Groups also pulled together to organize Summerville’s first Earth Day Festival. These efforts are not enough, we need more prevention and awareness education programs in Summerville.
There is much that can be done to reduce the amount of trash produced. Town hall should serve as an example of where to begin. By looking at unsustainable purchasing habits, town could both reduce waste and potentially save money. We could also look at making our numerous downtown events more environmentally friendly by encouraging the introduction of recycling and discouraging individual use items. Perhaps we could offer business incentives or recognition for entities working towards sustainability.
I’ve often said my greatest strength lies in knowing just how little I know. While I know I cannot understand every facet of these issues and I might have a few things wrong... I am certain we could be doing more to improve our shared community and better manage our limited natural resources. I hope our elected officials will take this head on and help local volunteers to make some progress on these issues.
Litter isn’t just unsightly, it contributes to flooding by clogging drainage systems, it poisons our waters, and it harms local wildlife. Contact Summerville Clean Team or Keep Dorchester County Beautiful via Facebook if you need supplies or help organizing a local clean up. Please share photos of your community clean ups! Join the conversation online and take it offline. Contact your council member and ask that they look into creating a comprehensive plan to combat these growing problems.
Side note: Are you an art fan? Like the Earth Day mural featured above? You can watch it being painted here on YouTube!