Keep the Midlands Beautiful: Preserving Natural Beauty Takes a Village

As the saying goes, litter trashes everyone. We see beverage bottles and food wrappers on the roadsides we travel daily. Once litter has accumulated, a self-perpetuating cycle can begin that is difficult to break in many communities. Litter can invite more litter, as people believe it’s not their problem or that a maintenance worker will pick up the trash. The truth is that motorists and pedestrians, as well as households, businesses, and commercial trucks, are all responsible for the litter we see. One organization determined to de-litter our roads, parks and waterways is Keep the Midlands Beautiful.

Keep the Midlands Beautiful is an organization dedicated to maintaining the natural beauty of the greater Columbia region through litter prevention, recycling, and beautification.

Laura Blake-Orr, Manager in Corporate Environmental Services with SCANA Corporation became a board member of Keep the Midlands Beautiful six years ago. An ambassador and volunteer recruiter for two sections of roadway and three waterway cleanup locations near SCANA’s corporate campus in Cayce, Laura seeks to educate and engage the public in litter prevention and greening activities that make the Midlands a more attractive place to live and work.

“Litter takes away from the natural beauty of the State,” Laura states. “People don’t realize that there’s an economic impact to litter. When companies are choosing to build or expand their operations in a region, aesthetics of the surrounding area are taken into account. Litter leaves a negative impression on potential businesses and residents, in addition to its harmful impact on wildlife.”

Now in its 24th year, Keep the Midlands Beautiful prides itself in administering the SC Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program. Volunteers from local civic groups, businesses, schools and churches adopt roads in Lexington County, Richland County, or the City of Columbia and pledge to conduct litter pick-ups quarterly for two years. In 2012 alone, 8,100 volunteers collected over 193,000 lbs of litter from roads and highways.

“The Midlands is gaining recognition for the wealth of recreational activities centered near its three rivers,” states Laura. “There’s a vested interest in keeping the outdoors clean. Some of the volunteers come from area businesses in the eco-tourism industry.”

In addition to their litter prevention campaign, Keep the Midlands Beautiful promotes repurposing and recycling through their annual “Grinding of the Trees” program. Each January, live Christmas trees are donated and ground into mulch that is then given away to the public. In the 2012-13 holiday season the organization ground 4,500 Christmas trees. Keep the Midlands Beautiful also partners with Lexington and Richland Counties to publicize different recycling programs and initiatives.

Whether it is litter pick-up, planting gardens, or recycling trees, the work of Keep the Midlands Beautiful and their volunteers has become an essential part of the Midlands’ attraction.

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