A message from our University of South Carolina student partners:
We are students at the University of South Carolina partnering with Gills Creek Watershed Association. We are conducting an environmental messaging campaign for the Gills Creek Watershed (GCW) area to prevent the contamination of yard waste. Our environmental messaging campaign is being conducted in the Lake Katherine area. If you live in the Lake Katherine area, you may receive a flyer, see postings around your area and on your neighborhood social media pages about yard waste and information surrounding sustainable practices. Our aim is to encourage more environmentally friendly practices concerning yard waste disposal.
Gills Creek Watershed
The Gills Creek Watershed is an area in the eastern to south-eastern regions of the Columbia suburbs and rural areas. It encompasses land east of Sesquicentennial State Park, down through Arcadia Lakes, Forest Acres, and sections of the City of Columbia before reaching the Congaree River. The dynamics of this watershed system has been dramatically altered through decades of urban development and building of dams to create lakes. Humans play a major role in the downstream effects of this water system, and you can help prevent further degradation of this beautiful natural resource.
What is yard waste?
Yard waste includes leaves, grass clippings, and small tree limbs from routine yard maintenance (www.richlandcountysc.gov). Per the public works program of Columbia, furniture, clothing, and rigid plastics are allowed (subject to a charge). However, these materials are not easily separable from environmentally friendly components and lead to environmental degradation, prompting our campaign.
What happens to your yard waste after it is set out for collection?
The City of Columbia yard waste disposal division collects the waste where it is then taken to a facility to be shredded into a compost. This compost is available to citizens to purchase for use in their yards and gardens and is used for city resources such as community gardens or “road islands” to name some examples.
The negative impacts of improper disposal
When “contaminants” are mixed into yard waste, it can be difficult to identify and separate in large quantities after being picked up. Plastics, dog waste, furniture, and other household trash get ground with proper yard waste and distributed as mulch around the city. Weathering of the mulch through modes of wind, rain, and other natural causes leads to the dissemination of microplastics and other pollutants into the waterways of the GCW, which flows into the Congaree river (and the beautiful lakes in your backyard and neighborhoods). This process leads to water degradation for wildlife and humans, polluting farmland and flood basins, and the connecting downstream waterways and ecosystems.
How you can help
Below is a flyer for sustainable yard waste management. We encourage you to print this out and use it as a resource for yourselves and/or your landscaping company for the betterment of our community and the preservation of the resources of our home. Specifically the backside of the flyer includes a list and images of the “eco-friendly and non-eco friendly” items to be disposed of.