By Meg Dickens
Johnson County has been making waves within the last year when it comes to litter control. Activists banded together to bring awareness, and the community organized a countywide litter clean up, which removed around 800 pounds of trash from Big Dry Run alone. Now state officials are taking steps to continue the litter conversation in what the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TNWF) calls “the first fresh progress on statewide litter control in a generation.”
Earlier this month, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) voted unanimously to start a “comprehensive study of litter pollution” in Tennessee. Officials will use this study to determine how effective current litter control methods are, see what currently works, discover litter sources, evaluate financial and environmental costs, and search for economic opportunities for waste recovery. According to TNWF CEO Michael Butler, this will be the “foundational launching point” for the litter discussion. The Tennessee CLEAN Commission will oversee any actions on litter reduction.
Communities of all sizes have a voice. Officials suggest concerned citizens reach out to their local government and representatives to encourage them to be part of the solution. The county government has already been meeting to work on solutions. Johnson County had a community meeting this March where small clean-ups combined into April’s countywide clean-up and citizens discussed litter causes.
“Let your elected officials know that we need to do something about litter,” Butler encouraged those that care about the issue in a recent interview. “That means your city mayor, your county mayor, your house member, your senator member because they’re the ones that work in the field of public policy, and that’s where the solutions are going to get developed in partnership with the private marketplace.”
One problem locals have brought up in community discussion is the never-ending flow of litter. After extensive clean-ups, volunteers report seeing the same stretches of land covered in garbage within days. These types of issues are normal statewide, if not further. According to TNWF data, around $15 million in taxpayer money cleans up approximately 23 million pounds of litter annually, but an estimated 100 million new pieces continue to appear along state roads.