Let’s help keep our roadsides clean

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By Lee Scott

Have you ever noticed those orange bags by the side of the road when you were driving? The first time I saw them, I thought someone had lost garbage from the back of their truck. 

Then one day, I spotted a man with an orange vest, then another man, and then another man. They were picking up trash and putting it into large orange bags.  

After I did a bit of research I discovered that these people were mostly volunteers and part of a state-wide program called Adopt a Highway. It was developed in 1988 “to eradicate litter and promote beatification in SC.”

Palmetto Pride, which is a legislative initiative, hosts the pickup program, partnering with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.   

No wonder our roads look so good. These volunteers are local citizens who care about Beaufort. 

Yet this all really got started back in 1953 when a consortium of businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and concerned citizens got together and started the “clean up” movement.  They formed “Keep America Beautiful.” This came about soon after President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system. 

Business leaders realized there was a growing problem with litter on the side of the road. There was also a concern because it was their product packaging that stood out in all the mess. The program began with an educational focus. 

It is strange to think people had to be told NOT to throw things out the window of their cars. 

Now we see lots of groups involved with Adopt a Highway clean-up efforts.  The Boy and Girl Scouts, private communities and others local community groups take on sections of a highway and clean them up.  

This program inspired another program called “Sponsor a Highway” which was started as the brainchild of a marketing executive who saw value in allowing companies to “market” through community cleanup activities. They get billed by municipalities for the clean-up work.  In return, they have the privilege of having their company names on roadside signs along busy roads.

Truthfully, I thought Lady Bird Johnson was behind all the clean-up programs, but her focus was on making it beautiful through flowers and getting rid of junkyards. 

However, the two campaigns seemed to have complemented each other over the years. The “Keep America Beautiful” campaign has been going on for over 60 years now and our “Keep South Carolina Beautiful” is the state affiliate of the national campaign. Currently, there are over 1,000 organizations participating in the various programs throughout the USA.  

Out of these campaigns have come volunteerism, education, and many other programs to keep our communities clean. So, please, make sure you do your part. Please do not litter!