After implementing a new litter pick up program earlier this year, the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office says the number one source of litter in the county is cigarette butts.
“Cigarette butts are not only the most difficult litter to pick up, but it’s also the most in quantity we pick up,” Capt. Dale Kittles, commander of GCSO’s Community Services Division. “We definitely want people to be aware that even such a small item can have a large impact. Hopefully, more awareness will make a difference in the amount of cigarette butts and other litter we are picking up.”
According to the American Legacy Foundation, cigarette smoking has decreased by 28 percent, but cigarette butts still comprise about 65 percent of litter in the United States. The presence of litter can reduce property values in a community by as much as 7 percent.
Community leaders have asked that the litter problem be addressed in some fashion for over two years. County Councilman Mark Allison noted the impact of litter on economic development during a recent budget session.
"The CEO of the Partnership Alliance (Heather Jones) pulled me to the side during an executive committee meeting," Allison said. "An industry which would be very beneficial to have in Greenwood County had only one negative comment and that was all the litter."
Jones said the amount of litter in a community can help demonstrate a community’s level of pride in the place they call home.
“A community’s appearance goes a long way in demonstrating to a business prospect how much its residents care about the place they call home,” Jones said. “Having clean highways and byways are integral pieces to our recruitment puzzle. We talk about economic development being a team sport and this is a role on the economic development team that every single citizen can participate in actively.”
Last December, GCSO hired a new deputy to assist with animal control and litter control. The new deputy joined the lone deputy assigned to animal control throughout the county and litter control duties were added to the job description.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis implemented a new litter control program in January utilizing inmates being housed at the county detention center. Inmates join at least one of the litter control officers on Saturday mornings to pick up litter along roads throughout the county.
Davis said helping clean up Greenwood’s litter problem has become a sort of personal mission.
“Greenwood has a lot of litter along roads that are well traveled,” Davis said. “To me, it’s a sickening sight. We didn’t put the litter there and it’s not our responsibility to clean it up. But we’re going to clean it up. I want people to come to Greenwood County and say, ‘Wow! Greenwood County sure is a beautiful place to live.’”
Kittles said those smokers who litter have a number of reasons for littering cigarette butts.
“People have a lot of reasons for throwing cigarette butts on the ground, but none of them hold much weight,” Kittles said. “The reality is we can all do our part to reduce the litter in our community and this is something that smokers can do to make Greenwood a much better place to live.”