Charleston County public information and education

Gregg S. Varner
Director of Charleston County Solid Waste
Charleston County, South Carolina

Charleston County established a full-service Recycling Program under the Public Works Department in 1991. One full-time staff member focused on public information and education. In 1994, Charleston County Solid Waste (CCSW) was established as a separate department, independent from Public Works. A second full-time staff member was hired to focus on education and outreach. CCSW now has two full-time staff members who are dedicated to public information and education.

The mission of the Education Department at CCSW is twofold: To educate the residents of Charleston County on reducing, reusing, recycling, and buying recycled products, thereby meeting the waste reduction goals set forth by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control; and to educate the residents of Charleston County on litter control and prevention. CCSW uses a multimedia approach to provide information and education to the residents of Charleston County on its various programs.

Print, radio, and television advertisements serve to educate the public on solid waste issues and are also utilized to promote upcoming events.

A "Recycling Tip of the Week" ad and litter control ads, promoting our LitterWatch Hotline, run consistently in the Post and Courier, Charleston's local newspaper. Ads also run on a monthly basis in Charleston's second largest paper, The City Paper, which targets a younger audience, and school-related ads run in The School Connection, a monthly periodical distributed to Charleston County schools.

Radio is used throughout the year, primarily to promote our special events. For the last two years, CCSW has purchased a radio package with radio conglomerate, Clear Channel Communications, Inc. The package includes advertising on radio stations in each of the following formats: country, urban, adult contemporary, oldies and talk radio, and added value such as live remotes, interviews, traffic sponsorships, call-ins and contests.

The "Just Recycle" campaign is a series of five television spots that runs across local ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliate stations, as well as most cable stations. The campaign focuses on recycling glass, paper, aluminum, plastic and steel. Campaigns focusing on litter control are in production and will begin to run in FY 2001.

Special Events
CCSW participates in over 30 local community events throughout the year, including farmers markets, festivals, Christmas parades, and sporting events. CCSW has sponsored two local sports teams, the Riverdogs baseball team and the Stingrays hockey team, for the last three years.

Charleston County Education Department also implements five special events a year including the Reuse & Recycle Fair, in celebration of America Recycles Day; an Earth Day Festival; Christmas Tree Recycling Day; and Enviro-Shopper Day.

Printed Pieces
Twice a year Charleston County residents receive For Lands Sake, a 10-page, four-color newsletter, complete with information on what is recyclable, a map of dropsites and convenience center locations, a curbside calendar, and calendar of events. The newsletter also includes a two-page, four-color insert with an update from our litter control Code Enforcement Officers called The Litter Lowdown. For Lands Sake is designed in-house, printed and sent to approximately 165,000 postal patrons in Charleston County in the spring and fall.

The Charleston County Solid Waste Brochure is a four-color piece designed in-house. It provides information on all of CCSW's services and facilities. The Litter Control Brochure is a four-color brochure designed in-house that explains the county's litter control ordinance, the penalties and fines, and who to contact to report litter violations or illegal dumping. It also promotes the use of our LitterWatch Hotline. The Business Recycling Guide is a 20-page, four-color guide designed in-house and is available to businesses that are interested in starting a recycling program.

School Recycling Program
The School Recycling Program was established to inspire, develop, and reward schools that implement and promote excellence in recycling. Currently, 73 out of 120 schools in the Charleston County School District are participating in the School Recycling Program. Over 1,700 children tour the Recycling Center and over 40 in-class presentations are made each year.

Charleston County schools are initially provided with a Recycling Startup Kit, which gives them everything that they need to implement a recycling program. Schools are also provided with curbside containers and the opportunity to recycle all of their paper.

CCSW establishes a Recycling Coordinator at each school and maintains a database of those contacts. A mass fax system is used to communicate with Recycling Coordinators and a two-page newsletter, Recycle Right, is sent to all Charleston County schools on a bimonthly basis to let them know of special projects and upcoming events. A Teachers Recycling Workshop is provided to teachers in the fall, and a DHEC Grant Workshop is conducted in February to encourage teachers to apply for a grant. CCSW also maintains a Lending Library for teachers to use in our Media Center.

Several art contests are implemented throughout the year for Charleston County schools: The Creative Recycling Art Competition for high school students; the Earth Day T-Shirt Contest for middle school students; and the Earth Day Groceries Project (students decorate grocery bags with the Earth Day theme) for elementary school students.

Each year, CCSW also recognizes those schools that have gone above and beyond in their efforts to recycle. The School Recycling Incentive Awards are presented to schools with Outstanding Curbside and Dropsite Programs. Every year the top schools in each category receive benches made from recycled plastic to be used on their school grounds.

Business Recycling Program
A Business Recycling Guide is provided to those businesses interested in establishing a recycling program. The Business Recycling Incentive Program recognizes and rewards businesses in Charleston County for excellence in recycling. CCSW provides a variety of incentives for businesses that have successfully implemented a program, including articles in our newsletter, decals to put in their place of business, and advertising placed in the local paper, listing those companies that are participating in the program. CCSW also is an annual sponsor of Charleston's Business Convention & Expo, encouraging local businesses to recycle.

Composting Program
CCSW established a yard waste composting program in 1993 to divert the yard waste from our landfill. Charleston County residents are educated about the program through our newsletter, For Lands Sake; advertisements placed in the local newspaper; and through the sale of compost at our landfill, the Recycling Center, and at local Farmers Markets, April through October. The Education Department also conducts Home Composting Workshops and acts as host to one-day-only Home Composter Truckload Sales.

Litter Control
Charleston County adopted a new Litter Control Ordinance in 1999. A LitterWatch Hotline was established so that concerned citizens could report litter violations and illegal dumping. The hotline was promoted in our newsletter, our Litter Control Brochure, and through editorial coverage and monthly print ads in the local paper.

Two Neighborhood Association Workshops are conducted each year to educate neighborhoods on litter control and other solid waste issues. Litter control is also the primary focus of our Earth Day Festival; awards are presented to Adopt-A-Highway and Clean City Sweep volunteers by the Charleston County Council Chairman and the Mayor of Charleston.

Education on litter control is integrated in all of our school tours and presentations. A "Litter Rat" was established as our mascot and makes appearances in our school presentations and special events. The Litter Rat will also be used in an upcoming ad campaign.

The Clean Campus Campaign is a new program in which all Charleston County schools are asked to submit plans to maintain a litter-free environment on school grounds through education, awareness, and cleanup efforts. The top school is awarded a bench made from recycled plastic in May in a County Council meeting.

To contact Gregg Varner, call 843-720-7111 or send e-mail to