Thousands of motorists encounter dozens of signs reading "Thank you for not littering" on their daily commutes through Columbia County.
However, officials differ on the effectiveness of such reminders to keep streets free of trash.
"It's difficult to measure the impact of those signs," Columbia County sheriff's office Capt. Steve Morris said. "It's difficult to measure the impact of education. I think it's safe to say it all helps. It's certainly not going to hurt."
Keep Columbia County Beautiful recently posted 50 street signs and two billboards to remind motorists not to use the environment as a garbage can.
Litterbugs, however, are often blind to the messages, Richmond County marshal's Capt. Teresa Russell said.
"I think it comes down to human nature," she said. "Either you're environmentally friendly enough to know that you shouldn't throw trash out your window or you're of the mind set it really doesn't matter."
Signage likely won't change a person's natural inclinations, Russell said.
Still, authorities say they're trying to quell littering.
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office handed out 16 littering tickets last year and one thus far this year, Morris recently said.
However, many more are committing the crime without getting caught.
"We have too many people throwing trash out of their vehicles," Morris said. "Our inmate work detail cleaned 873 miles of roadway in Columbia County last year."
Columbia County Chief Magistrate Wade Padgett said state law treats littering as a misdemeanor with convictions punishable with a $1,000 maximum fine.
Each county varies in its enforcement of littering, he said.
"The fines in counties would be up to each individual county," Padgett said. "In Columbia County, it would be up to $1,000, depending on the circumstance."
Individuals caught littering can't be fined by both the state and the county in a single incident, he said.
"There are litterbugs out there," Morris said. "We're going to do what we need to do to enforce state law and the county ordinance."
The anti-littering signs were placed in Columbia County as a reaction to growth, said Stacie Adkins, the county's community events manager who oversees Keep Columbia County Beautiful.
"I don't know that the county has a huge problem with littering, but we don't want to have a huge problem," she said. "We're just trying to remind everyone that we're growing and we don't want this to become a huge problem."
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