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Those of you who are old enough might remember the original 1970’s Crying Indian PSA, produced by Keep America Beautiful. It graphically portrayed what we have done to our beautiful country. Later on, in 1976, a PSA featuring Tennessee Trash aired. It depicted an old junky convertible and a scruffy looking Tennessee driver doing his best to litter our beautiful state. And, many Tennesseans are still doing their best to emulate that driver.

This spring I spent five hours cleaning up the accumulated winter trash left along our property. One has only to look around our city/county to realize that some of our residents and our visitors are what could be called “Tennessee Trash.” The trash we leave is as small as a cigarette butt, the droppings of your pet on the neighbor’s lawn, or as large as a king size mattress. It is everywhere, but one of the best places to view discarded trash is ‘The Tennessee Trail of Trash.’ It is the stretch of US 79 and TN 374 leading to the Bi-County Landfill. Yes there are fines that can be levied from $500 to $2,500 and even jail time for repeat offenders, but they don’t seem to work.

Unfortunately, our penchant to litter won’t end with just imposing fines. Perhaps if the litterer and the entire family had to spend several educational weekends picking up roadside trash it might have some effect.

Stopping littering has to begin in the family. Watching dad, mom, brother or sister toss something out the window is a great teacher. The old adage ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ does not mean much when the child has just observed otherwise.

Or, perhaps we need to make nonreturnable, disposable items extremely expensive. What about making every property owner responsible for daily or weekly trash pickup along any road frontage they might own? That would get someone’s attention.

As a young boy, I learned the hard way not to litter. While stopping for lunch at a roadside picnic table in the Smokey Mountains, I tossed a sandwich wrapper on the ground. Grandpa informed me I was now responsible to pick up all the trash at the roadside picnic area. We stayed at the roadside till I was finished. That was a hard, not forgotten lesson. Don’t litter.

Don’t be Tennessee Trash.

Carl Eisemann


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