From Rivers to Lakes – How Your Litter Impacts Our Marine Life

Each year, millions of pounds of litter end up in Tennessee waterways: from our rivers to our majestic lakes. Not only does all this trash take away from the beauty of Tennessee’s natural landscape, but litter can also be extremely damaging to our marine life.

Trash can be swept away from roadways, our scenic byways or dumped directly in our waterways. However, no matter how garbage gets disposed of, we need to understand the impact marine debris has and what we can do to stop it.

The Impact of Litter on Waterways and Marine Life

Litter, especially plastic trash, can affect our waterways in many ways. When carelessly discarded, garbage can end up in rivers and lakes, causing harm to the bodies of water that help contribute to Tennessee’s economy.

Our rivers, lakes, and waterways provide drinking water and support recreational activities and the state’s tourism and local business efforts. When trash enters the picture, this pollution directly disrupts our state’s economy.

Marine life is also negatively impacted by discarded garbage. Fish, turtles, birds and other animals mistake litter for food; leading to poisoning, internal injuries or malnutrition. At times, marine life can also be entangled in trash, which may result in the animal’s death.

Marine debris also disrupts the natural balance of the Tennessee environment. For example, accumulated litter can deplete the waterways of oxygen, which kills off fish and prevents plant life from new growth. This loss of oxygen, in turn, completely disrupts the biodiversity of the state.

How Individuals Can Make a Difference

The good news is that there are many steps that we can take to help prevent the adverse effects of litter in our waterways:

Use Reusable Bags, Bottles and Other Containers
Instead of using disposable, single-use bags, bottles and other containers, switch to reusable items. Single-use items often end up in the waterways where they can break down into microplastics or harm our marine life. Eco-friendly alternatives not only look stylish but also minimize water pollution.

Proper Disposal of Waste and Recycling
Learn how to identify what trash can be recycled. If you cannot recycle a certain piece of trash, then it is essential to dispose of any garbage properly. Secure your trash bags so wind or animals do not scatter your litter into the waterways.

Avoid Littering Altogether
Make a conscious effort to protect our environment by not littering! We can directly prevent waste from entering our lakes, rivers and other bodies of water by throwing away our trash properly.

Participate in Cleanups
If you want to get directly involved in protecting Tennessee waterways, then why not check out a Cleanup near you? You can help remove litter and keep our waters clear and beautiful. Volunteering in nature is also important for your mental and physical health. It’s a win/win!

Encourage Others to Join the Movement
Reach out to your friends, neighbors and family to Join the Movement to end littering in Tennessee. Share this blog post and the importance of keeping Tennessee waterways free from trash.

Let’s Work Together to Save Our Waterways

Litter poses a serious threat to Tennessee’s waterways and marine life. Marine debris has serious consequences: from harming marine life to destroying the ecosystem. We can all work together to preserve our waterways and the creatures that inhabit them by joining a cleanup, properly throwing out trash and Joining the Movement to end littering in Tennessee.


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