SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) — Spartanburg County environmental enforcement officers say that, if you have noticed an increase in trash piling up along South Carolina roadways, you are not alone. According to the Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department (SCEED), the state’s litter problem has gotten out of hand over the course of the pandemic, despite officers’ and community volunteers’ best efforts.

“Since March of 2020, everybody’s noticed litter on our roadways has increased,” SCEED Director Jamie Nelson said. “It’s not just locally. It’s also statewide.”

Certain areas in the county, like Highway 80, are worse than others, Nelson said. According to SCEED, the biggest contributor to litter problems on most highways is residential and commercial drivers hauling unsecured loads. However, normal roadway litter — cups, cans, cigarette butts, etc. — is contributing to the growing problem, too.

SCEED’s five officers issued 520 citations in 2020.

Nelson attributes the worsening litter problem at least partially to the state department of correction’s 2020 decision to suspend inmate labor during the pandemic.

“That asset went away,” he said. “But unfortunately, we still have knuckleheads that choose not to secure their loads, choose to throw things out their windows and make our beautiful county and state look horrible.”

Nelson said his five enforcement officers have begun organizing roadway cleanups. However, he said, more help is needed and the county needs a more permanent solution than relying on inmate labor.

SCEED is working with the county to hire on four fulltime litter cleanup officers.