Litter in Tennessee is much more than an eyesore.
It’s also a public health hazard, and something that threatens wild animals and their habitats.
That’s why the Tennessee Wildlife Federation is calling attention to how litter not only spoils Tennessee’s natural beauty, but negatively impacts the entire ecosystem. The nonprofit conservation and wildlife preservation organization is asking state residents to post their photographs on its website to demonstrate the toll trash is taking on this state’s rivers, woodlands and wildlife.
Tennesseans can submit their litter snapshots at tnwf.org/litter.
“With the unofficial start of summer, we want Tennesseans to take and share photos of all the litter they see when they are outdoors,” Mike Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation, said in statement released Monday. “Litter is such a big and old problem that we’ve all become blind to how much of it there is in our lives every day.”
Kristine Fedorenko, content coordinator of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, said the organization began sharing litter photos on its website earlier this week. She said the site has received an “ enthusiastic reaction” from residents across the state.
“We are looking for photos that will show how trash is impacting a community, particularly in areas where it has become a problem for wildlife,” Fedorenko said.
She said litter, such as plastic straws, shopping bags and bottles, can be mistaken for food and harmful to wild creatures.
Litter is a growing problem in the state.
Fedorenko said the Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates there are 100 million pieces of litter on Tennessee’s roads at any given moment, and 18% of it will end up in the state’s rivers, streams and lakes.
In fact, the Tennessee Valley Authority said it removed 230 tons of trash from the Tennessee River in 2018.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation said new studies show the impact litter is having on wildlife habitats. After decades of litter that sinks in water — such as glass, cans and drink bottles — the beds of lakes and rivers have become fouled, which has impacted important habitat for native fish.
Littering is a costly problem for Tennesseans, with residents paying millions of dollars annually to clean up trash. It is also a problem for farmers, who suffer an estimated loss of $60 million a year as a result of litter issues.
And litter is a burden on Tennessee’s growing outdoor industry, which generates $21.6 billion annually in economic activity for the state.