City and suburban leaders ask state for help to keep interstates trash-free

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Nobody Trashes Tennessee!

That’s the state’s official litter prevention campaign. But if you drive the interstates, it looks like everybody is trashing Memphis and Shelby County. The litter problem is so bad, city and suburban leaders are asking the state for more help.

“We spend millions of dollars a year in Memphis just picking up the litter,” said TDOT’s Director of Operations for West Tennessee, Mike Welch, “we pay for contract litter removal and for mowing.”

Take a ride around Memphis and you can’t help but notice the Bluff City is a trashy city, especially along the interstates. It’s the responsibility of the Tennessee Department of Transportation to pick up litter on state highways and roads.

“We do have a new mowing and litter contract for the City of Memphis effective tomorrow,” Welch told Action News 5, “and we have already met with the contractor and laid out our level of expectations of litter removal and mowing cycles.”

TDOT said the state spends $19 million dollars a year to keep Volunteer State roadways clean. But it’s not enough.

“If we picked up once a month in some areas,” he said, “sometimes a week later you cannot tell that we’ve picked up.”

TDOT provides the Town of Collierville once a month pick-up along Highway 385 and I-269. Town leaders recently met with representatives from the department to request more frequent service. The Memphis City Council also asked the state to increase funding for trash removal.

Welch said the City of Memphis has been making progress on dealing with illegal dump sites, and that helps.  But no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, personal responsibility comes into play.

The state created the “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” campaign featuring Coach Penny Hardaway delivering the don’t toss your trash out the car window message.

“I hate seeing trash on the side of the road,” he said in the video, “makes me want to slam dunk it into a trash can.”

The goal is to teach citizens that waste has a place and it’s not on the side of the road.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Welch, “we appreciate everyone’s patience and we’ll get there. We’ve got a lot of good contractors and partners so we’re hoping to catch up.”

Governor Lee has proposed an additional $4 million for TDOT’s litter removal program. If approved, that would mean an extra $1 million for West Tennessee.

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