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Tennesseans Snap Photos of Trash for Litter Awareness Campaign


Friday, July 12, 2019   

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new campaign aims to raise awareness of Tennessee's trash problem.

Hundreds of people have sent photos of litter in their communities to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, the group that launched the social media effort.

Studies have found the Tennessee River contains more microplastic per gallon than any other studied river in the world, and the state Department of Transportation estimates around 100 million pieces of litter are scattered along roads.

Mike Butler, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, says his organization wants to spur people into noticing the trash that surrounds them.

"We've become kind of numb or blind to how much garbage is just around us all the time,” says Butler. “And so, we thought about, 'Well, if we've been blind, I wonder what other people think?'"

Last year, the Tennessee Valley Authority removed about 230 tons of trash from the Tennessee River. Butler points out that cleanup efforts cost taxpayers around $15 million a year. To participate in the campaign, Tennesseeans can submit photos of litter at ''

There are many citizens' groups across the state working to collect cans and debris from roadsides, and pluck plastics out of rivers and lakes. However, Butler says state legislators should be focusing their attention on policies that could rein in the trash problem.

"We do think that there is a policy discussion that needs to take place,” says Butler. “We want to incentivize the right behaviors, to help reduce or lessen the amount of littering that's going on. And two, we need a renewed effort to clean up what's already out there."

According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, most of the state's landfills will hit their maximum capacity within the next three decades, while at least nine will be completely full within 10 years.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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