Why we choose to bail out the litterbugs on our Charleston, SC beaches

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By Mark A. Leon

On the morning of July 5, 2017 at 5:50 AM, news crews were on-site at Folly Beach to talk about the clean-up event scheduled for 6:00 PM that evening. A group of conscientious patrons organized a post July 4th clean up volunteer effort to help pick up all the garbage left behind from the July 4th festivities.

The beach was a forthright mess. Beer bottles, water bottles, wrappers, clothes, towels, chairs and more draped the normally scenic backdrop of the ocean sand. There were even chairs on the edge of the sand in the water. Some debris even potentially disrupting the sand patterns of the sea turtles.

It was a saddening site to see as I took my sunrise walk.

As a woman spoke to local reporters and then walked the beach with a bucket and pick, I began to ponder the pros and cons of this event. I naturally admired the dedication of the residents that were going to bond together to bring the beauty and cleanliness back to our beach, but that wasn’t what dominated my thoughts.

Why are we not holding people accountable for their disrespectful and dangerous behavior?
This event sets a precedent that we tolerate this behavior and that if people litter the beaches, someone else will pick it up for them.

I started thinking about how we could let these actions happen?

  • Understaffed enforcement – We know the patterns of behavior of beachgoers including the typical time frame for arrival and departure. Why do we not patrol and if litter is left behind, we fine on the spot?
  • Promoting a clean-up event on Facebook enhances the perception that people can get away with this behavior.
  • We do not take any serious action to remind people of the privilege of being on our area beaches. We need to partner with law enforcement and local businesses to remind and reinforce the need to keep our beaches clean.

I continued to walk that morning, watching the miracle of the sun rise from the ocean into the sky, but this morning was a little different; a little sadder.

I know July 4th is an anomaly happening once a year like Memorial Day and other holidays, but I have witnessed waste remains during non-holiday weekends and weekdays.

We allow people to take advantages of a gift without holding them responsible for their actions and this behavior needs to be addressed soon.

Charleston, South Carolina – Welcome to the Dumping Ground

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Garbage and waste have its place in society, but it isn’t covering our hallowed streets and sidewalks.? For years, we have witnessed a flurry of trash on my streets, sidewalks, corners and parks.? It is a problem that so few seem to want to address.? We are the victims and the culprits of this growing concern by contributing or not taking action to remove.

Is it the fault of the trash collectors for dropping trash out of the bins while collecting, the students for dropping cans and bottles without regard for cleanliness or the tourists who only see this place as only a stopping point?? The answer is simple:? It doesn’t matter.? We all have a responsibility and we are ignoring it.

We tend to take for granted that some parts of Charleston have fallen from grace and the accumulation of trash is just a part of the neighborhood, but I tested the grounds on a five square block radius between Smith Street and St. Philips and Calhoun and Bee Street.? This is a a central part of the peninsula and the heart of the College of Charleston campus.

Late December is traditionally a slower period of the year.? We are out of tourist season and the students are out of session.? This did not stop the insulting views I had to witness.? In front of the Addlestone Library bears a plaque that states this is a non-smoking campus.? Two feet behind the sign was a cigarette box and four cigarette butts.? Around the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, I counted 30 cigarettes on the sidewalk.

Walk with me and see this pictorial recollection of my walk through the heart of the Charleston peninsula.

What I saw is not consistent with the awards we have received over the last several years.? I am not presenting a research or analysis report on the state of the union, but it does not take a data scientist to see that the increase in volume of tourism, added traffic issues, residential growth and elevated construction are collectively leading us down a path we will not easily be able to return from.

This is only a fraction of the images captured to relay the message that action must be taken.

We have many options that we can take, but why aren’t we?? Why not:

  • Impose stricter littering regulations and enforce the laws.
  • Developing a disciplined community clean up program
  • Provide more education to local students and residents
  • Remind tourists of the importance of cleanliness for the ecosystem, natural beauty and all life that resides in the community.

We have an opportunity to reverse this situation, but at the rate of growth we are witnessing, if we do not act soon, we will accept walking in? garbage as a way of life in Charleston.

That is not the Charleston I want.