B Smith

Brandon Smith and his wife, Tara, celebrate in November at Howard’s on Main after he won the Greenwood’s race for mayor. Tara is leading a litter pickup campaign.

Greenwood leaders know it’s bad — and they want work together on a solution.

But removing litter from public areas takes more than policy changes — it requires volunteers doing the hard work of picking up after the careless actions of others.

This weekend, Mayor Brandon Smith and his wife, Tara, will lead by example, coordinating a Saturday morning cleanup on Mathis Road, from the intersections of Maxwell Avenue to Bypass 72.

It runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

It’s part of “Trash Time with Tara,” an initiative she launched soon after her husband was elected mayor in November.

“We have a litter problem in Greenwood. My goal is to raise awareness of our litter, provide opportunities for more people to get actively involved in cleaning up and ultimately stop people from littering in the first place,” she said.

Organizations, including Keep Greenwood County Beautiful, Lakelands Master Gardeners and even homeowners associations have all pledged support to combat the region’s litter buildup, with members of the County Council mulling stronger laws for those caught polluting.

Greenwood has revived its partnership with Keep South Carolina Beautiful, which is part of a nationwide network and offers grant opportunities for litter abatement and environmental improvements, such as tree plantings and river monitoring.

Keep South Carolina Beautiful falls under the auspices of Palmetto Pride, an anti-litter group launched in 1999.

Earlier this month, Greenwood’s city and council councils had a joint meeting to discuss 2019 priorities, where litter emerged as a key talking point.

County officials have already committed $50,000 worth of hospitality tax funds to fight a stubborn litter problem that has been identified as a hindrance for economic development.

How that money will be deployed remains to be seen, but the city could help by pursuing state grants to pay for the operational costs of an abatement program, County Council members said.

Mayor Smith said city officials take the problem seriously.

“There is a direct correlation between cleaning up (literally and figuratively) and increased quality of life, decreased crime and increased self-esteem. We are seeking volunteers from all walks of life to help us tackle this problem,” Smith said.

His wife will shortly release a monthly cleanup schedule for the rest of the year, and Smith urged all residents to take part in at least one of them.

“We need to teach our youth from a young age that littering is never OK — even if they see adults doing it,” he said.

City horticulturalist and volunteer coordinator Ann Barklow said removing roadways of litter is essential for long-term ecological sustainability.

“Trash is way more than an eyesore and frustration for us. It is one of the many sources for breeding mosquitoes. One bottle cap can breed over 300 mosquitoes so you can imagine a can or cup could easily breed 10,000! Then think of the tires and buckets we find,” she emailed to conservationists on Wednesday.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.