Roadway Litter Ends Up in the Water

Kathleen Gibi of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

Here’s what we know and what you can do about it.

It might seem obvious that litter on the roadways ends up in our waterways, but when you break down the process of how litter travels around our state, it’s pretty shocking.

There are an estimated 100 million pieces of litter on the state’s roadways at any given time. 80 percent of litter in our waterways started on roads, so the connection between roads and water is important.

Taking Care of The Tennessee River

Fortunately, we have a great partner with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB), and they are solely focused on educating and inspiring our citizens to take action and keep our rivers beautiful and clean for all Tennesseans now and in the future. Together with their partners and over 2,500 volunteers, they have removed more than 275,000 pounds of trash along the river and its tributaries. 

“After traveling through the seven-state Tennessee River watershed in our 26-foot work boat for the last three years, I’ve found myself increasingly in awe of the diverse wildlife and scenery in our region,” said Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful in a recent opinion piece in The Murfreesboro Voice. “That pivotal role played by the alluring Tennessee River on our local economy is dependent on a delicate, essential ecosystem.”  

In a National Litter Study released by Keep America Beautiful earlier this year, cigarette butts were identified as the number one littered item in the country. While cigarette butts may be small, the study estimated more than 9 million of them on America’s roadways. 

A Solution for Disposing Cigarette Butts

The KTNRB team has devised an innovative way to help get those cigarette butts where they belong – in a trash can. Taking it a step further, they help partners throughout the region ship the cigarette butts they collect to have the plastic microfibers found in cigarettes to be recycled into items like outdoor plastic furniture.

“We’ve installed over 500 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles across the seven-state Tennessee River watershed to help prevent the most littered item in the world from making it into our waters,” Gibi said in her article.

It takes great partners to tackle litter prevention in our state. We’re proud to partner with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful on reducing litter in our state.

Read more of what Kathleen Gibi has to say here: Murfreesboro Voice, The Tennesseean.

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