In Our Opinion: South Carolina needs to clean up its eco-friendly laws

Before South Carolina can keep it beautiful, we ought to try to at least keep it clean.

A litter scorecard released by the American Society for Public Administration has the Palmetto State ranked dead last in the country for “public space cleanliness” — i.e. how much litter we’ve strewn about the state.

The scorecard’s author laid into South Carolina, lambasting it for a lack of recycling mandates and container deposit laws and not maintaining or prioritizing the enforcement of existing environmental laws. In fact, South Carolina spends the 11th least of any state for “environmental services” — a meager $21 per person.

Moreover, South Carolinians throw away more un-reused or un-recycled garbage each day than just about anyone else in the entire country, earning us the second-worst ranking in that category.

Our state’s demographics, namely the 16-25 year olds who studies show are most likely to litter, are the butt of most excuses for the filth, but the blame should be shouldered by our leadership and not simply blamed on population data. We aren’t denying the power of statistics, but we do believe the cleanliness and wastefulness rankings, and their obvious correlation, indicate a concerning lack of an environmentally conscientious culture, an agenda our government is partly responsible for establishing.

South Carolina is remarkably beautiful, and letting the litter continue to pile up and scar the state’s environment would be an incredible shame.

An article in The State says that Florida is one of the cleanest states, thanks to its recycling mandates, strong anti-littering campaign and, admittedly, its older population. While South Carolina can’t accelerate the rate at which age brings wisdom and, in turn, environmental friendliness, it can certainly implement a better anti-littering program.

Of course, that takes money, and states, considering they’re increasingly run like businesses, have a hard time justifying investments that reap such delayed rewards. South Carolina shouldn’t entertain this mindset and ought to invest in improving its environmental services.

We’ll put it this way: It’s an immediate cosmetic upgrade, and with time, a cultural upgrade, too.

The lack of immediacy regarding some environmental problems tends to lead to their dismissal, but tightening up our litter enforcement and launching a strong eco-friendly campaign ought to take care of that.

There are a number of reasons South Carolina ought to clean up its act. But if nothing else, isn’t it worth it to rid the state of one of its many last-place rankings? We think so.


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