Tennessee’s Positive Approach to Litter Control
TN Litter Grant Program is comprehensive litter collection program. In 1979, the TN Legislature put a moratorium on litter control/bottle bill proposals to comprehensively study options. Through the “Safe Growth Plan for Tennessee” in 1980, TN Legislature passed a specialty tax on malt beverage and soft drink industries (§57-5-201 and §67-4-402) to fund a comprehensive, county-based litter abatement program (§41-2-123) for the collection of litter along roadways. This collection program addresses all types and manner of litter and misplaced trash. The tax, based on consumer consumption, raises approximately $3 to $4 million per year and is administered by TN Department of Transportation, Highway Beautification Office. The funds are distributed to all 95 counties via formula of road mileage and population over a base allocation ($14,737 in 2001).
TN Litter Grant Program is comprehensive litter prevention program. After fifteen years of roadside collection, TDOT/HBO understood that litter pickup was only cosmetic and did not address the root cause of litter – behavior and people mishandling their solid waste. Over a three-year period, TDOT phased into the Litter Grant Program an education component to teach litter prevention. Counties are required to expend 15% to 30% on education programs addressing students, adults, media, government and/or business. Program manual and education guides were distributed (1996) and each county submits an annual plan of work for collection and for litter prevention education. Keep America Beautiful, Inc. and Keep Tennessee Beautiful do not advocate a “product solution” for the litter issue because the issue is social – littering behavior – and funds should go for prevention education – teach the child and retrain the adult – for responsible handling of all solid waste.
TN Litter Grant Program allows prisoners to perform community services. LGP grant allows prisoners sentenced (§40-23-104 and §40-35-311) to county workhouse to work on county roads to pick up litter and trash. For each day worked, the prisoner’s sentence is reduced by two days (§41-2-123(3)). This has three-fold benefit 1) productive community work by prisoners, 2) cleaner roadsides in community, and 3) reduce workhouse crowding.
TN Litter Grant Program will sunset if mandatory deposit legislation passed. TN Code §67-4-402 allows in comptrollers notes that taxing authorization for Litter Grant Program will stop on June 30 of any year that state or federal deposit legislation takes effect. The current LGP is authorized until June 30, 2005.
Bottles and cans are a minor portion of roadside litter. After five years of LGP, TDOT asked all the County LGP Administrators to estimate the type and percentage of litter collected over a two-month period. The reports showed that bottles, cans and fast food packaging were 23% of the total volume collected. In 1996, an AdoptAHighway group (Environmental Science Class, Chattanooga State) collected and cataloged the litter from a two-mile suburban highway. The results were 44.3% plastic, 29.9% paper, 8.3% metal, 7.1% polystyrene, 4% unusual (clothing, building materials, batteries), 3.8% glass and 2.4% rubber. The item with highest count in each of the collection surveys was cigarette butts, ranging from 471 to 6,902. In March 1998, a student in a winning junior-high Science Fair Project in Washington County, TN systematically collected 1,179 pieces of litter located 200 feet from a stop sign at three locations. The results were 45% cigarette butts, 20% paper, 19% plastic, 7% polystyrene foam, 5% aluminum, 3% glass and 1% steel. These varied TN surveys consistently show that bottles and cans are a minor portion of the roadside litter problem.
Tennessee has 25% waste diversion goal by 2003. The TN Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 set a 25% waste reduction goal from Class I landfills, rather than a recycling goal for the state. Solid Waste Regions and counties are near accomplishment of this goal by diversion of construction/demolition debris from Class I Landfills, composting yard wastes, recycling collection, and source reduction.
TN Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC); Division of Community Assistance does not publish an interim percentage or a recycling rate. Mandated return and recycling of glass, aluminum and PET bottles would shift record keeping from a limited number of collection/processing facilities to huge number of retail establishments and would further complicate data collection by TDEC.
Bottle Bill would be deterrent to municipal recycling programs, especially curbside collection. TDEC has spent over $30 million on building the solid waste infrastructure within the 95 counties of Tennessee. The funds ensured the Class I landfill capacity (and closure), assured waste collection method for all citizens (Convenience Centers, curbside, access to private haulers), provided recycling (drop-off, Convenience Centers, curbside,) and public education of waste management. Recycling collection programs are/should be based on transport to market, where the commodity is actually reprocessed (recycled) into a new product. The commodity markets are highly volatile to supply and demand, but the aluminum market has shown the most profit over the years. Multi-material collection programs depend on aluminum profits to subsidize their other materials. If a Bottle Bill were instituted, it would put a severe financial hardship on municipal recycling programs, especially curbside, as they would loose their “profit” commodity. Local governments would be forced to subsidize their recycling collection programs or cut the program to the citizens.
Negative incentives cannot sustain cultural change in behaviors or attitudes. Forced recycling by return deposit is a negative incentive to the individual. Short-term return collections are high but do not sustain at this rate. Consumers view the incentive as a 5-cent personal cost retrieval and do not associate their action with social necessity of solid waste management. Consumers opt for convenient collection of recyclables when they have a choice. This personal choice, based on conservation values, strong public education and convenience, has shown to be sustainable. A subjective example of this is New York City: Residents took their cans and bottles to Redemption Centers for 5-cent deposit but the transport was viewed as personally inconvenient. Residents began leaving their cans and bottles in their curbside garbage. An organized network of non-profits worked with homeless and street people to collect the cans and bottles, prior to garbage collection, and take to Redemption Centers to help fund the non-profit Shelters and Food Centers. What was perceived as anti-litter and pro-recycling legislation has become a social services funding program, based on scavenging garbage, with no oversight.
Littering incentives from DUI legislation. The public opinion against drunk drivers and driving under the influence (DUI) is at an all time high – Tennessee has progressive sentencing of large fines, jail time, loss of license and vehicle, and community service time. Offenders do not want evidence in their vehicles, thus throwing out the physical evidence. DUI penalties have a greater influence on behavior than any recycling or deposit refund benefit.
Tennessee supports Keep America Beautiful System methods. Through Executive Orders (1989 and 1998), Tennessee supports public-private partnership efforts to facilitate Keep America Beautiful System (KABS) programming at the community level. The local KABS organization has staff and Board with mission to educate citizens to take greater responsibility for enhancing their community environment and focus their programming on litter prevention, solid waste handling and community enhancement. There are 23 KABS affiliates (2002) serving 53% of state’s population. Keep Tennessee Beautiful at the University of Memphis serves as state KAB agency and education contractor for TDOT.
2002 Document by Edith W. Heller, Keep TN Beautiful
Schools and the US
Congress are Back In Session
Congressional lawmakers are
coming back from their summer break with a whole lot of homework! With
rising rates of childhood obesity, and falling test scores in reading
and math, we need to pass comprehensive environmental education
legislation that will make our children healthier and improve academic
results. Back in June we got one step closer to ensuring environmental
education for children in the United States, when the House Education
Committee passed the No Child Left Inside Act. Now we have another
chance: the Act is expected to come to the House floor next week, and it
looks like it will be a close vote. We need your help to persuade
undecided representatives t o support No Child Left Inside. Please send
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NEW on Earth Day TV!
2008 Earth Day Network
Going Green In Your Apartment
The whole world is going green. Which is great because it may be necessary to do that for the whole world to continue existing. UK based Greenbottle has developed a biodegradable milk carton, made of recycled card board and a biodegradable plastic inner liner made from corn starch. Recycling solutions like this are popping up everywhere!
I just found out that my Apartment Community offers free recycling service! I had no clue. Apparently, many cities are now requiring Apartment Communities with more than a certain number of units to offer recycling service.
I'm going to take full advantage and go as green as the Grinch. I'll become a sage of the recycling realm. You should too. Check out your city's Solid Waste Services Department website to find out more about recycling in your area.
Like me, I bet you have a bunch of junk laying around your apartment that you've been scared to trash, but don't really know how the heck to get rid of it. I've found a few tips on getting rid of these common items that just make clutter.
Cell Phones- Because they may contain bromide, lead, mercury, and other environmentally hazardous materials, Cell phones should not be disposed of in the garbage. Instead, do something more than just recycle them. Donate them to a cause like The Wireless Foundation's Call To Protect program. Also, at most wireless carrier's retail centers, they offer to take in abandoned phones...and I'm sure they find them appropriate homes.....or resting places if its as bad a phone as some of my old ones....
Coat Hangers- I find these things everywhere around my place. Why do I have coat hangers in the kitchen??!??!? Who knows? The important thing to remember in this situation, is that there are just too many of them, so it's imperative that I get rid of a few. Sure, they can be thrown away, but that leads them to go sit for years in some landfill. The best way to get rid of old coat hangers is to donate them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or even your local dry cleaner to reuse. Not only will you free up some closet space, but you'll also be saving the environment one hanger at a time. **(Keep a wire coat hanger in the trunk of your car. You never know when a friend may lock their keys in their car.)**
Computers- What's a computer? Ha! Right. Like I wouldn't know what a computer was. Psh. Old desktop computer lying around...taking up space...and taunting you as it collects dust. Don't let it control your life. you can't trash it, but you can reuse it. Throw a blanket over it and use it as a night stand or use it as a step stool in the closet. You can also donate them to a number of worthy and very capable hands that will more than happily dispose of your dead PC. Some companies will even let you trade in your old PC towards the purchase of a new one!
Cooking Oil- Been draining all of your grease and cooking oil into an old tin coffee jar? Disposing of it is easy. Mix it with kitty litter, double bag it, and throw it in the trash. Easy!
After finding out how to get rid of that stuff, I am a little bit closer to having a completely clutter free apartment. Hopefully, this will help you be on your way too.
Until next time...Going Green like the Incredible Hulk...but a lot less angry....
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