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Litterbugs are ruining our scenic gateways

Staff Report • Feb 20, 2012 at 8:40 AM

The stretch of Interstate Highway 26 between Johnson City and Kingsport includes rolling green hills, majestic farmland and an inviting view of the nearby mountains.

This route ought to be an appealing gateway to our two communities and one that shows off this area’s natural beauty. But it’s not.

Instead, I-26 has become a corridor of shame. The shame comes from the trash strewn in the median and along both sides of the highway.

This litter makes for an unfavorable first impression of our region by visitors. It shows the stupidity, thoughtlessness and laziness of a few local knuckleheads who think it’s OK to toss their trash out a car window.

Johnson City has a crew that regularly picks up garbage left by the side of the interstate. Even so, the work keeps piling up. In the battle against litter, the litterbugs are winning.

Despite public awareness campaigns to encourage folks to stop littering, some Tennesseans continue to treat our streets and neighborhoods as if they were waste dumps. That’s because few litterbugs are ever cited for their contemptible behavior. The problem is catching litterbugs in the act. Law enforcement officials say they have neither the manpower nor the resources to patrol for littering violations.

That’s where you can help. Average citizens should keep an eye out for litterbugs, particularly in neighborhoods that are prone to have garbage dumped by the roadside. If you see someone tossing trash out a car window, take down their license plate number and call the proper authorities.

You can report littering anytime by going to the state Department of Transportation’s website at www.tdot.state.tn.us/environment/beautification/litter.asp or by calling its litter hotline at 1-877-854-8837. It’s time to make litterbugs pay for their crime.

A first conviction for littering in Tennessee can cost you $500 and 40 hours of community service picking up roadside trash. A second conviction carries a $1,500 fine and six months of picking up litter. We think the penalties should be much tougher for repeat offenders.

Remember, you also can keep Tennessee safe and debris-free by securing your load before taking to the highway. Motorists should know it’s both dangerous and illegal to transport unsecured or uncovered loads of debris.

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