To kick off the collaboration, TDOT held three announcement events and distributed 2,300 reusable bags to 483 grocery stores throughout Tennessee. Each customer at those stores received one reusable bag per order, Mike McClanahan, a TDOT environmental division manager said.
“Litter is a tremendous issue for Tennessee,” McClanahan said. “TDOT alone spends $15 million picking up litter, trying to educate people to prevent litter. At any given time there are 100 million pieces of litter on Tennessee roadways. Knowing the impact litter can have to communities — business recruitment, tourism development, public safety, public safety, aesthetics, environmental quality — Tennessee launched its Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign in 2017.”
Food City on North State of Franklin Road was the Northeast Tennessee location where TDOT made the targeted announcement. Store Manager Derek Adkisson said the reusable bags are in line with Food City’s efforts to be a more eco-friendly business.
“It was a natural fit for us to partner with TDOT and be the location where we’re giving away bags for the day to help have a sustainable future,” Adkisson said. “As a company, we have many things going on, whether it’s fuel-efficient tractor trailers going down the roads, skylights and other energy saving measures we take in our stores or our reusable bag program. Food City’s committed to having a sustainable future.”
Robin Cleary, director of Keep Kingsport Beautiful, also attended the event and said plastic grocery bags are one of the most littered items nationally, but this campaign can make a dent in that.
“They get in the waterways, they cause an issue with aquatic life and water fowl. Anytime we can encourage folks to make those choices that are a little more environmental friendly — bringing those reusable shopping bags with you every time you go to the store and even if you’re clothing shopping — it’s about making those choices. You don’t have to take the straw at the fast food restaurant, you can take your own water bottle with you and not use bottled water. It’s the small things you can do that add up.”
Those plastic grocery bags can take more than 100 years to completely break down, Cleary said. She encouraged anyone who spends time outdoors to take along a bag to pick up trash they come across.
“Plastics are just a huge part of our litter problem, and just recently the Tennessee River was rated as one of the most polluted rives in the world with plastic debris,” she said.
The organization will hold a community wide clean-up event April 20 from 9 a.m. until noon. Anyone who wants to participate can contact Cleary at [email protected] or call 423-392-8814.