Tackling the litter problem in Sumter County is likely going to take a combination of equipment, people power and tenacity.
Sumter County Council Chairman Jim McCain on Tuesday morning watched with great interest as a trash-choked ditch running alongside Berry Street on the Eastside was being cleaned up.
“We’re sizing up different strategies to address the litter issue, which was only made worse from the pandemic,” he said. “The county is concerned about litter just as much as everyone else and we’re taking concrete steps to clean up our neighborhoods and roadways.”
Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon, Public Works Director Eddie Newman and Stormwater Utility Director Alfred Conyers were also on hand and discussed the merits of using specific pieces of equipment for certain tasks.
A vacuum truck used primarily to clean and flush water or sewer lines was put in service to pull trash from the ditch but saw issues with organic matter slowing the intake. A mini-excavator was able to scoop out trash but didn’t quite have the reach, so a full-size excavator was able to remove parts of a couch, a bicycle and other discarded items.
“It’s a crying shame we have to expend time, money and equipment to clean up this problem when all people have to do is put trash in a container and take it to recycling centers for free,” McCain said. “People need to be more proud of their community and quit throwing trash out in the streets and ditches.”
Mixon noted there is temporary contract labor currently tasked with picking up trash alongside roads leading up to three recycling centers in the county – Cane Savannah Road, Stamey Livestock and Rainiare Boulevard.
Newman said the last year has seen a huge increase of trash and refuse being brought to the Recycling Centers as people stayed home and remodeled or renovated their homes.
“If you’ve been to the home improvement stores lately you’ve seen how busy they are and the other side of the coin is people bringing in discarded materials to our centers,” he said. “If folks could be more attentive to making sure loads are properly secured or tied down then we could reduce the amount of trash on the roads leading into our recycling centers.”
Mixon said it will take a multi-faceted approach to cleaning up the litter in Sumter County that brings local governments together with civic groups and volunteers.
“Clean roads are safer roads and it’s going to take a concerted effort across the board to make a difference,” he said.