From the mountains to rivers, lakes and highways, it’s hard to stumble on an area that hasn’t been impacted by the effects of litter. There is no doubt that littering is a significant problem and that it can impact our roadways, waterways and harm Tennessee plants and wildlife. For litterbugs in Tennessee, there are enormous consequences, especially when it comes to keeping our roadways free of trash and debris.
Learning what constitutes as litter and how contributing to the litter problem affects you legally is the first step toward prevention.
Here’s the scoop on roadside litter laws in Tennessee:
What Types of Trash are Associated with Roadside Litter?
Every day, countless pieces of garbage are thrown from moving vehicles and scattered across our Tennessee roadways. This creates an unsightly and dangerous hazard for pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers.
Some of this trash includes:
- Discarded Tires
- Plastic Bottles and Bags
- Plastic Food Wrappers
All of these items have one thing in common – they all play a significant role in contributing to Tennessee’s litter problem! We encourage you to do your part and keep these items off our roadways.
What Is Intentional Litter Versus Unintentional Litter?
Litter can also take many forms in how people throw out the trash. Intentional waste is when a person deliberately throws out the garbage, such as tossing a Styrofoam coffee cup out the window.
On the other hand, unintentional litter is when someone accidentally creates a litter problem, such as when a plastic bag or wrapper gets blown away and ends up somewhere else.
No matter how it ends up on Tennessee roadways, intentional and unintentional litter can adversely affect our environment. It not only affects wildlife but also pollutes our water sources and soils.
Whether your litter is unintentional or intentional, any act of littering is punishable under criminal law in Tennessee.
What Are Some of the Tennessee Laws That Help Stop Littering?
Littering is a serious problem that can lead to fines, community service or even jail time.
Some of the roadside litter laws include:
- All littering between 5 and 10 pounds is considered criminal and a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties include a $500 fine, court costs, community service up to 80 hours and even the possibility of six months of jail time (Section 39-14-504)
- Littering between 10 pounds or more is considered a Class A Misdemeanor and can include fines of up to $2500 and put to 160 hours of public service pickup (Section 39-14-505/6).
- A litterbug may even be required to pick up the garbage placed, discharged or dropped (Section 39-14-506).
- Repeated offenses can be considered a Class E Felony (Section 39-14-505/6).
The above can also lead to increased costs to taxpayers. For example, it is estimated that TDOT spends over $23 million to pick up litter.
How to Educate Yourself and Others About Liter Laws in Your Community
It is essential to work together to create a safe and healthy environment and keep our communities clean. TDOT encourages you to be aware of the litter laws in your area. You can also do your part by reporting litterbugs to our litter hotline at 1-877-8LITTER. Violators will receive a reminder letter about the harmful effects of littering in Tennessee. No fine will be incurred from your report.