Bradley County received more than $6,000 toward litter pickup and awareness efforts in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
“It’s a great grant. We appreciate the state of Tennessee working with us,” said Gloria Hayes of the Bradley County Road Department.
Hayes said the department seeks to educate the public, students, business leaders, media members and those in government about the effects of littering, and why reducing it is important.
The grant also provides money for litter cleanup. Pickup is organized through a partnership with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, allowing inmates to remove trash and debris from roadways.
“It’s kind of a countywide thing, we all pitch in,” Hayes said. “Things are improving greatly.”
Teresa Culbreath of Tennessee Department of Transportation Environmental Division said each county that receives the grant receives an amount based on the county population and the miles of road in the county.
Culbreath said education is a large component of reducing litter. She said the public, especially in rural counties, also needs to be encouraged not to burn trash. Culbreath said burning trash releases toxins into the air that can cause cancer and breathing problems.
She said the grants allow a county to start small and build each year.
Many counties recycle as much of the removed litter as possible.
Modifications to the Litter Law in Tennessee have instituted levels of offenses ranging from misdemeanor to criminal on the third offense.
A minimum fine is $50 for items less than 5 pounds. The fine for more than 5 pounds starts with $500. Money from these fines stays in the county.
Litter is defined by the state as commercial dumping, garbage, tobacco products, perishable and improperly disposed of nonperishable solid waste.
Hayes said sometimes litter is not from county residents, but those simply passing through.
Encouraging recycling is one way to reduce litter.
Gail Randolph of the Tennessee Recycling Coalition spoke to the group about her work in Lincoln County. As part of the coalition, Randolph travels across Tennessee encouraging recycling and helping people get started. Part of her job is finding industries in Tennessee that will accept recyclables.
“It is not easy,” Randolph said.
One of her latest projects has been trying to find a place to recycle glass. She said there is one place in Tennessee that recycles glass. However, her recycling center has received a grant for a glass pulverizer to crush and smooth the glass into tiny pieces that can be used for mulch and other things.
“We’re trying to increase awareness,” Randolph said.
She said finding something to do with trash tires is another project she is working on, stating there needs to be a tire mulcher in Tennessee that can turn the tires into useable rubber.
She said recycling programs can create jobs.
Where recycling goes after a center collects it is of increased importance when it comes to recycling computers, Randolph said.
“You have to be careful because people say, ‘It died, here (you go).’ And all their information is in that computer,” Randolph said.
She said reputable companies will wipe the hard drive before dismantling the machines.
“You have to make sure once they leave your facility that you know where they’re going,” Randolph said. “Make sure they have a certificate where they will destroy them. No information will leave that facility.”
Culbreath said in many other countries, recycling bins are as common as trash cans.