By Jill Penley
More than 4,332 illegal roadside dumps were cleaned up in the state last year as part of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Highway Beautification Office’s Litter Grant Program. Through the Litter Grant Program, county governments across the state removed roughly 23 million pounds of litter from 529,736 miles of Tennessee roadways and 9.2 million pounds of that roadside debris was recycled.
According to Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor, the county board of commissioners approved the grant for the fiscal year at the April board meeting.
Russell Robinson, Director of Accounts & Budgets for Johnson County explained that the County receives $44,200 from state TDOT funds administered through the highway beautification office for litter prevention and control.
According to Robinson, these funds provide a full-time litter control officer and provide funds for education, supplies, and materials used in conjunction with litter pick-up and removal. The contract requires 20 percent, or $8,840, of the total grant to be used on educating the public on the importance of keeping Tennessee beautiful.
“Education includes supplies, materials, staff training and activities that help the community better understand the how and why of litter control, prevention and the importance of recycling,” Robinson said.
Since 1983, the tax revenues have funded TDOT Highway Beautification Office’s Litter Grant Program. The law gives TDOT discretion on how to best use the funds to clean up and prevent litter, and matters related to litter, such as recycling or litter in storm water runoff.
Litter Grants, which are available to all 95 counties, support a variety of programs and activities that help reduce litter throughout Tennessee. The specific amount of funding a county receives is determined by a formula based on population and road miles. Through the efforts of collaborative county partners, the Litter Grant Program is responsible for removing an average of 11,300 tons of litter each year. Over the 34-year
history of the program,
this equates to the removal of more than 321,000
tons of litter from our roadways.
Recycling efforts, such as the recycle center, are funded from local funds and are excluded from litter grant funds.
Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTNB), which provides litter prevention education, litter law enforcement, community enhancement through beautification, and volunteer recruitment and management, is the cornerstone partnership of TDOT’s litter prevention education and outreach program.
TDOT spends a significant amount of money each year on litter pick up and prevention activities. To reduce those costs, Tennesseans need to understand the negative impacts of litter on
their quality of life, the negative effect on the scenic beauty of Tennessee, and the financial costs associated with litter.
Citizens are invited to report acts of littering from motor vehicles. TDOT maintains a toll-free hotline at 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). Citizens may also report littering online at www.tn.gov/tdot/environmental-home/environmental-highway-beautification-office/litter.html.