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Illegal littering problem continues to grow in spite of efforts at curtailing

By: Rebecca Herman
Freelance Writer

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) provides grant money to all 95 counties in Tennessee each year that is devoted to litter control. The amount of money for each county is determined based on a formula that factors in road miles and population for each county. The grant money is collected annually from a specialty tax on malt beverage and soft drink industries. Each year, approximately five million dollars is collected from this tax and distributed to all 95 counties in Tennessee. Johnson County received $33,700 in 2014, which is used for the general operations of the litter control department, litter education, and to pay the salary of the litter control manager, Sandy Hammons.
Each day Hammons goes out to roads in the county that are in need of cleanup and works diligently to get the area clean. She has two regular volunteers and also works with inmates who are eligible for work release and people that must complete community service. Hammons said there are roads that are more cluttered than others and that there are a handful of roads that are difficult to keep cleaned up. Some of this trash is from unsecured loads; however the majority of trash along the roadside is intentionally discarded.
The big question that begs an answer is “Why?” Why are people throwing trash out of their cars and dumping it by the bagful into streams and over embankments? There are several trash collection agencies available in Johnson County, an easily accessible landfill, and even a location for recyclables to be dropped off. Yet the problem of littering and illegal dumping continues to grow. Hammons stated that she has had several children tell her, upon realizing her position, that the children’s parents had given their blessing about throwing trash out of the car window so “ the inmates have something to do.” When it comes down to the base reasoning though, Hammons said, “Honestly, people just don’t care.”
So what steps need to be taken to stop the litter from marring the beautiful countryside in Johnson County? The first step, Hammons said, is notifying TDOT or the Johnson County Litter Control when someone is throwing trash out of his or her car. TCA 54-1-401 through 54-1-406 requires TDOT to have a system in place where a person can anonymously report incidents of littering. Once this information is given, the offender will be sent a letter informing them of the potential legal consequences, a fine up to $1,500. In 2014, 2,848 incidents were reported using the hotline.
Another step is community. Hammons would like to see more groups and families adopting roads in Johnson County. These groups are then responsible for cleaning the area they adopt four times a year.

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