Litter speckles cities, parks, highways and interstates. Nashville resident Judy Isenhour often spots unsightly rubbish along I-65 while driving to Brentwood.
“Now every once in a while, I guess TDOT comes along and picks it up,” Isenhour said. “But then it’s almost immediately trashed again. And it’s not just paper and plastic and Styrofoam. It’s tires and shredded tires and lumbar. It’s just awful.”
Earlier this year, Tennessee lawmakers introduced a bill to create a commission tasked with addressing litter in the state. But first, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the nonpartisan research arm of the Tennessee General Assembly, is being asked to study the current state of litter and its various impacts.
Litter is a common concern in Nashville. In fact, Metro’s customer service system, hubNashville, has received nearly 5,000 complaints of litter in the past four years. That’s the equivalent of more than three complaints per day.
And that’s just Nashville.
Nobody Trashes Tennessee, a campaign from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, estimates that there are 100 million pieces of litter on state roadways at any given time.
Cigarette butts, which are comprised of plastic, nicotine and heavy metals, remain the most littered item on earth — trillions of butts are discarded into the environment each year.
In the U.S., other heavily-littered items include alcoholic bottles and cans, plastic drinking containers, chip bags, food wraps and soft drink cans, according to Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit dedicated to litter reduction.
For the statewide study, researchers will consider the sources of litter, financial and environmental costs, economic opportunities of recovering wastes and current litter-reduction efforts.
Tennessee CLEAN, an anti-litter effort from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, advocated for the study and is pressing lawmakers to pass the bill, titled “Tennessee Cleaner Landscapes for the Economy, Agriculture, and Nature.”
“I hope it helps,” Isenhour said of the study. “Our state is beautiful, and I hate to see all the trash.”