SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Spartanburg County Council approved hiring an employee-based litter clean-up team at their meeting Monday night.

7 News learned why the county believes the positions are needed.

“My five litter officers do a great job. Last year, they issued 520 citations, strictly for littering,” Director of the Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department, Jamie Nelson, said. “We actually took 40 individuals to jail last year because of a littering-initiated charge.”

SCEED Director Jamie Nelson told 7 News littering is one of the biggest problems in Spartanburg County.

“People forget that that cigarette butt you flip out the window, that’s littering. That gum wrapper that goes out the window, that’s littering,” he said.

And Nelson said COVID hasn’t helped, as the inmates who used to pick up litter are no longer available.

“SCDC, in March of 2020, made the right, safe decision. They brought the inmates in and kept them in, and we understand why; but what we noticed real quick was we started drowning on the roadside litter,” he said. “We forgot how much of an asset that was; and we also forgot, over the years, that that was just an asset.”

Nelson said it’s since been up to volunteers to help clean up Spartanburg County’s roadways.

“In 2019, our totals were 147 tons–not pounds–tons of roadside litter; but then, in 2020, it was only 34 tons,” he said.

The county has been working on finding a solution to this problem and, at Monday night’s county council meeting, Nelson presented the idea of hiring a new employee-based roadside clean-up crew. The council approved it.

“‘Who are you hiring?’ I told them real quick, ‘Heroes.’ These people won’t understand it,” Nelson said. “They may think they’re doing a mundane job, doing roadside litter; but I’m going to tell you right now, after 2020, they’ll probably get more pats on the back, and honks on the horns going down the road, than they realize.”

Nelson said it’s unclear when inmates might be able to help out again, and he believes the new full-time positions will make it easier to keep Spartanburg County beautiful.

“You just never know. Things can happen. And when it does, who’s going to do what? Somebody’s got to be there,” he said.

Nelson told 7 News he hopes to have at least three employees hired by May or June of this year.

If you see someone littering, you’re encouraged to call the Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department at (864) 596-3582.