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Charleston is not your garbage dump

Ryan Nelson talks trash

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Call me a hippie or a tree-hugger. Believe me, I've heard it. But as Peter Griffin would say, "You know what really grinds my gears? Littering." OK, so maybe Peter Griffin never said that exactly, but I am truly sick of seeing our interstates and roadways look like yard sales.

It doesn't matter if you're driving the roads of Mt. Pleasant, downtown, West Ashley, or Highway 61 on the way to Givhans Ferry State Park, the amount of litter is out of control. In the winter, it's especially noticeable when the grass and trees lose their luster and the only thing staring you in the face is the remnants of a fast food outing.

But those late night noshes aren't the only thing littering our thoroughfares. Take a look at all the construction materials strewn across the roads. From insulation to ladders, it's everywhere. These things are an accident waiting to happen. Just ask my friend Louis Yuhasz, who was speared in the face by a rebar that fell off a work truck on I-26 two years ago. Thank goodness he survived, but he will always wear the scar of someone's irresponsibility.

And we can't forget our beautiful beaches. I'm shocked at the amount of beach chairs, coolers, beer cans, or picnic items that litter our beaches. This isn't just a sight that makes your eyes sore, it also affects our marine life. Often it's out-of-towners who leave it (allegedly), but it's our responsibility to keep them informed of how their actions affect us. And if we have to pick up after them, then we must.

According to PalmettoPride.org, the minimum fine for littering is $200 plus court fees, and the maximum fine is $1,087 plus court fees. In South Carolina, there is a 100 percent assessment on all state litter tickets, plus court fees. Guilty convictions can lead to jail time between 30 days to one year. The court will also impose community service litter cleanup hours.

Sometimes litter doesn't happen intentionally. It flies out of the back of your pickup without your knowledge or during the summer months when you're driving from Folly and your papers fly out the window, but please take some precaution. Make sure that the items in your pickup bed are secure and clean out your car occasionally. I make a conscious effort to bring along an extra bag when I walk the dog and pick up all the soda bottles and beer cans along the sidewalks. My husband thinks I'm crazy — maybe I am — but I feel a little better when I see a clean road.

Recently on a trip to a big city, we exited on an off-ramp, and sitting there was a tattered sofa and all I could think was, "How horrible. Who just puts a sofa on the side of the road?" But when we came home from our trip, guess what we saw on 526? A metal desk. On the side of the road. Really?

I've heard excuses like "It creates jobs" or "It's not my problem." But honestly, it's all of our problem. The Lowcountry is far too pretty to look like a dump. From the tiniest piece of trash to large junk in the road, it all adds up. I have pride in this little slice of heaven that we all share, and maybe that's why I get fired up about it. If we all work together and make a conscious effort about our trash, we can turn South Carolina into the clean and pristine state it should be.

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