Paul Audette combed Postal Way Thursday. On Friday, he hit International Drive. Saturday, with clouds threatening rain, he grabbed his bucket and bags and picked up trash along a stretch of Carolina Forest Boulevard.
“You get sick of looking at it,” said the Vermont native, who moved to The Forest after retiring 10 years ago.
Audette’s efforts highlight a new strategy for Beautify Carolina Forest, a nonprofit that holds regular litter clean-ups in the suburban community.
The group, which incorporated a year and a half ago, recently began cleaning more areas of The Forest. Traditionally, BCF has held a monthly cleanup on a Saturday. Now volunteers focus on “mini adoption” areas for several days each month. Each area covers a section of about 1.5 miles.
“This has proven to be more advantageous since volunteers can clean near their neighborhoods and can select the time themselves over a three-day weekend, rather than conform to a Saturday at 8 a.m. time,” said Richard Skrip, the organization’s founder. “We just supply them with trash bags, pickers, vests and gloves.”
Since Beautify Carolina Forest incorporated, the group has utilized more than 100 volunteers and picked up over 1,500 bags of trash. The group also mows some medians and cares for landscaping at the big green Carolina Forest sign.
BCF is looking for additional volunteers to spend two hours each month picking up trash. They said the need will only grow when Horry County widens Carolina Forest Boulevard in the coming years.
Couple that with a community population that is expected to double by 2030 and the necessity of finding reinforcements becomes obvious.
“It’s going to get worse,” Audette said.
The county’s struggles with litter are not confined to Carolina Forest.
Awash in fast food wrappers, styrofoam cups and plastic bottles, Horry’s roads fell into such neglect that county officials created a litter control department in 2014 to clear the county’s major arteries, including U.S. 501 and S.C. 22. The problem went beyond irresponsible drivers.
Last month, local officials began charging a fee to truck drivers who don’t cover their loads at the Solid Waste Authority.
County police also adopted a “zero tolerance for litter” policy in April.
Last month, they made 29 trash-related charges that could result in more than $12,000 in fines.
“That’s a pretty good, successful campaign,” said HCPD Chief Joe Hill, adding that police would target litter throughout the summer.
“We were going after dumping grounds,” the chief said. “Tracing back through trash, through surveillance … we’re trying to get some of these major dumpers of tires and whatnot.”
Keep Horry County Beautiful, a committee that organizes volunteer cleanup efforts throughout the county, picked up more than 35,000 pounds of litter in 2016 (up from nearly 23,000 the year before) and volunteers put in more than 4,000 hours (up from almost 1,400 the year before).
Despite those efforts, county data suggests the trash problem persists.
Each year, the KHCB committee conducts a litter index, a survey of the cleanliness of the county’s roads, boat landings, parks and other public spaces.
This year, the group evaluated 118 sites and ranked each from 1-4, with 1 being clean and 4 being trashed. The index average was 2.07, nearly identical to last year’s (2.08).
“It’s sad to see that it’s above a 2,” said Bo Ives, who chairs the committee. “That’s just average.”
Although the Grand Strand is a major tourist destination, county officials said much of the blame for the county’s litter problems lies close to home.
“It’s our people trashing our county,” County Councilman Al Allen said. “We need help in starting to identify these folks, turn them in call them in and let’s do something. Because I don’t like driving down our roads and seeing all the trash.”
Audette, the volunteer, hates seeing the mess, too. When he read a newspaper story about Beautify Carolina Forest a few months ago, he felt like he needed to help. He hopes others sense that obligation, too, despite the frustration of seeing the community trashed.
“The sad thing is, you go out today and go back out tomorrow morning and see people [have] started up already,” he said. “It’s a terrible society.”
By the numbers
Bags of trash collected by Beautify Carolina Forest since it incorporated
Pounds of litter collected countywide by Keep Horry County Beautiful in 2016 (up from 22,833 in 2015)
Keep Horry County Beautiful volunteers in 2016 (up from 651 in 2015)
Litter-related charges made by Horry County police last month
Fines tied to those litter charges
—Sources: Keep Horry County Beautiful, Beautify Carolina Forest, Horry County Police Department
Want to help?
To volunteer time or donate money to Beautify Carolina Forest, contact organizer Richard Skrip at firstname.lastname@example.org.