HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – As more people use personal protection equipment to help curve the spread of COVID-19, littered PPE has sprouted in high traffic areas of the county.
News13 photojournalists documented litter trails in Myrtle Beach, Socastee, and Surfside Beach.
Parking lots of grocery stores and gas stations seemed to be the most impacted.
Keep Horry County Beautiful says litter is both a health and environmental issue.
Chairwoman April O’Leary says the PPE we see on the ground can potentially spread COVID-19, as the virus can live on plastic for up to three days.
“These materials are being used to protect us from possible exposure to COVID-19 and if they’re not disposed properly we are risking the spread of a life threatening virus,” said O’Leary.
After the virus dies, litter still threatens the enviornment.
“This is really concerning for us. We really don’t fully know the impacts of what this has on human health, but we do know it can kill local wildlife,” said O’Leary.
Trash can easily make it’s way to the ocean.
“When it rains plastic becomes particularly problematic, because typically if it’s not collected or caught before it rains it will eventually end up in our storm water interconnected systems that that end up in our tributaries and in our waterways and then into our oceans,” said O’Leary.
She says the littered PPE is part of a larger issue surrounding single-use plastic.
“Plastics are a particular concern for us, due in part to the fact that they take such a long time to decompose. We usually use these items from anywhere to 10-15 minutes, but it takes at least 1,000 years for them to decompose,” said O’Leary.
Plastics also eat up taxpayer dollars.
“Our taxpayers in Horry County spend about $60,000 a year maintaining the solid waste equipment because they jam up the machines,” said O’Leary.
KHCB has not been able to meet for volunteer clean-ups, but hope to start events in June.
O’Leary says gloves, pickers, and proper shoes should be worn when picking up all types of litter.
She recommends using reusable masks and shopping bags whenever possible, as they can be sanitized and worn again.
The committee is also asking for input on a county-wide survey regarding a potential plastic bag ban.