Group forms to fight litter problem in Sumter


Litter is more than an eyesore.

Just ask Scott Burkett, a Sumter real estate agent.

"If you are showing prospective home buyers around town, who are trying to choose between Sumter and another town, you hope they don't notice the litter problem, but they always do," he said.

After having participated in an Adopt-a-Highway clean up as a member of the Sertoma Club, Scott said he realized how big the problem is.

"We filled up 150 trash bags in just a short portion of Lewis Road," he said. "We have to try something else."

Burkett said he was fed up with the litter problem and decided to do something about it.

Recently, he set up a meeting with representatives of several groups in the area who might be interested in joining together to fight litter. Included in the meeting were Shelly Galloway of Sumter School District; Paula Cearley of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Joey Rogerson of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, Nicole Bailey of the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, Erika Williams of Sumter Economic Development and Sumter County Councilman Chris Sumpter.

"The main idea was to start by having everybody from the group tell how litter affects them," he said.

"It affects everybody," he said.

Williams said prospective businesses that visit Sumter are often turned off by the litter, while the sheriff's office and Sumpter must deal with phone calls from constituents.

Burkett said the concept of a "litter alliance" was well received by the group, and a lot of ideas were discussed about how to be pro-active in dealing with litter, especially about how to stop people from tossing their trash in the first place.

"We can pick up the trash all day long, but it does not stop people from doing it," he said.

The meeting went well, Burkett said, and the group came up with some ideas on how to combat litter.

Among ideas discussed were attracting more organizations into the Adopt-a-Highway Program, which is administered in Sumter County by Paula Cearley, and placing "Dump it When You Pump It" signs promoting the idea of emptying your vehicle of trash when you fill up with gas.

"We want to keep it a local thing, so people know Sumter cares about litter," Burkett said.

Another concept was to make more use of county inmates for roadside clean-up duties to coordinate with mowing contractors to mow the grass on roadsides after they have the have been picked up.

"What we came up with is a little bit of prevention, education and common sense," Burkett said.

The group will have another organizational meeting on Nov. 20, he said, and will have a public meeting in December or January.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Burkett said.