Jul. 1—Aiken County is "slightly littered" based on its recent Litter Index score of 1.81.
Keep Aiken County Beautiful Program Coordinator Kandace Cave and eight volunteers conducted the survey April 15-May 10.
They visually assessed the amount of litter on 10 randomly selected roads in each of the eight Aiken County Council districts.
Scores in the Litter Index's rating system and their interpretations are as follows:
—1, minimal or no littering.
—2, slightly littered.
—4, extremely littered.
The district scores were added together and divided by 8 to determine the overall score for the county.
In terms of litter, Aiken County is "not the worst, but we're not the best," Cave said. "We definitely have work to do."
District 3, which includes part of the Horse Creek Valley area, had the highest Litter Index score of 2.4.
District 6, which includes Graniteville, had the lowest score of 1.33.
Keep Aiken County Beautiful has conducted a Litter Index survey annually for three years.
The overall county score was 1.98 in 2019 and 1.92 in 2020.
Cave said she was "a bit surprised" that the overall county score was slightly lower in 2021 than it was in 2020.
During much of last year, there was a significant buildup of litter, she explained. Many activities designed to reduce the amount of roadside trash didn't take place or were smaller in scale because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Some of those efforts, however, have resumed in 2021 with the easing of restrictions.
In addition, according to Cave, there has been more community concern about litter.
Awareness locally of the problem also has grown, she believes.
"We had a large increase in road adoptions and one-time cleanups earlier this year," Cave said. "I am certain those acts of service contributed to the better Litter Index score as well."
The lower score "does not mean that our litter problems are solved," she added. "However, it does indicate some progress."
Litter seen during the 2021 survey was different than in the past because it included a greater number of larger items such as big bags of trash, mattresses, sofas and tires, according to Cave.
"This has to stop," she said. "Volunteers help remove much of our county's roadside litter. The types of litter indexed this year were too heavy to ask volunteers to tackle and due to equipment and manpower, it will take the county longer to remove."
Litter often was dumped in one spot on an otherwise clean road this year.
Fast food items and personal protective equipment also were more common.
Keep Aiken County Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.
The Litter Index is part of Keep America Beautiful's Community Appearance Index, which also takes into account the presence of graffiti, illegal signs and other eyesores.
Keep Aiken County Beautiful has been focusing on the litter assessment portion of the survey.
"The Litter Index is a small sample," Cave said. "There are thousand of roads in Aiken County, and there are only 80 roads in the index; so it's not the end-all and be-all."
But the data collected is helpful because it can be used to "target our effort in areas with the most need," Cave concluded. "The index is a tool that kind of guides us in making decisions."