Trash belongs in containers, not along the roadside

Published 10:27 am Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring, despite its brief winters, has at long last arrived and along with it the winter collection of windblown trash and litter, which adorns most of the area’s main roads and streets, fence lines, and river banks.

We’ll forgive Mother Nature for spreading the trash of the thoughtless among her two-legged “stewards of the earth.” It seems like people have little regard for the areas they live, travel and work in.

It is a disgusting, inescapable part of life in our county and city. We are blessed to live in one of the prettiest, certainly most biologically diverse parts of the state, but there is a significant minority who have no qualms about trashing our roadways and river banks.

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Carter County has a population of over 55,000 and the number of vehicles in town has increased dramatically. So, too, has the number of people who don’t give a second thought to tossing their trash out the window of their moving vehicles or, more casually, leaving litter and garbage in the back of a pickup truck to let the wind take care of it. Then, too, there are those who intentionally and evasively toss their bags of trash and other castoff items in a county ditch or sometimes, more boldly, along a city street or on someone’s private property.

Judging by the number of spent soda cans, paper cups, fast food wrappers and beer bottles lining county roads as well as in the city, there are far too many people who don’t know what garbage cans are for. So, picking up after the thoughtless, the clueless and plain, ordinary slobs of the road falls to the good people of society or prisoners. Fortunately, in Elizabethton the caring and generous far outnumber the clueless and careless or we all would be drowning in garbage and filth.

Clearly, the state Department of Transportation needs to clear the medians and berms of interstate highways with its own crews or with others that it contracts, because this work can be dangerous. For highway interchanges and other state roads, TDOT enlists volunteers through its Adopt a Highway program, but the number of groups that volunteer for this duty is too small, and there is no control over how well or often the litter is collected. Often, groups that volunteer to maintain a stretch of road lose interest or become discouraged when their hard work disappears under a fresh layer of discarded trash.

If Good Samaritans don’t come to the rescue, litter accumulates. Soon, it’s not just bottles, cans and bags from fast-food restaurants tossed from cars or blown from their parking lots, but old tires, televisions and mattresses. This is how illegal dumps are born.

It is so easy to carry a trash bag in your car. When you finish your giant-sized drink or Big Mac sandwich, there’s no need to throw the wrapper or cup out the window — stash it in the bag. It takes less energy to carry the bag into your home to dispose of it properly than it did to carry the quart of soda into your car.

Carter Countians need to be reminded it is against the law to litter and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,500. It costs taxpayers in Tennessee more than $11 million a year to clean up litter along the roads. Plastic drink cups, beer bottles and construction debris strewn by the roadside do not present a favorable first impression of our state to visitors.

The signal that roadside litter sends is clear: This community does not care. Is that the message we want others to hear?

Show your pride. Do your part to keep Elizabethton and Carter County beautiful. No one wants to see your trash.