NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The ongoing trash problem in Tennessee rivers, lakes and forests could best be reflected through an online photo campaign by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
Before Memorial Day, the agency asked people to submit pictures of litter found in the outdoors. TWF CEO Michael Butler said there have been close to 1,000 photos sent, from capturing wildlife surrounded by plastic to a pile of litter including water bottles on the side of rivers.
The pictures were not only from larger cities but in rural areas where the problem seems to be the worst.
"People are obviously concerned," Butler told NewsChannel 5. "It goes to show that the litter problem in Tennessee is pretty widespread and if we're not very purposeful and thoughtful about addressing it, it's not going to get any better."
Butler said clean up costs Tennessee taxpayers $15 million each year. There are about 100 million pieces of litter on Tennessee roads, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Out of all the rivers studied in the world, the Tennessee River contains more microplastic per gallon.
The campaign comes as more people are aware of the use of plastics and the harm it does to the ecosystem. Whether it's reducing the use of plastic straws to a package-free shop in East Nashville, Butler says it's an overall litter issue that can be resolved if everyone participates.
The agency also has a petition online to encourage community leaders and state legislators to support reducing littering in Tennessee. The pictures could very well be used to help support the effort to the state.
Butler would like to see the state create a coalition to look into the matter. However, he believes it could start by putting together different groups and businesses who are concerned about the trash found in the outdoors.
"We need to pull together the business community and other organizations that have a concern about this topic because they have to be a part of the solution. It has to work for the private sector because they're the ones that have the greatest opportunity to help us leverage this because there is more of them," Butler suggested.
The campaign "Nobody Trashes Tennessee" helps put the spotlight on the growing problem. To find out how you can help, click on this link.