Tennessee Litter Law

Today, I attended a seminar, sponsored by the Metro Beautification and Environment Commission. We were fortunate to have great speakers. I learned that Tennessee passed a litter law last summer, TCA 39-14-5. Officer Kevin Kennett of the Litter Patrol of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, was one of the speakers.

The law is online at www.ktnb.org/educationalresources. html.

Officer Kennett went over a few highlights:

1. Getting caught tossing a cigarette butt up to five pounds of litter is punishable by a $50 fine and 40-hours of community service.

2. Criminal littering is tossing anything from 5-8 pounds on the roadways. The fines are more.

3. Aggravated criminal littering is 10 pounds or more. This is a felony.

I learned that 30% of the litter on our roadways is deliberate littering. Joe Smoo eats lunch in his car and tosses the McDonald’s bag out the window. Now, 70% of littering comes from trash blowing out of open bed pick ups that over 40% of Tennesseans drive.

There is a law in Tennessee that “motor vehicle{s}…shall be required to have such materials in an enclosed space or fully covered by a tarpaulin.” Officer Kennett is working with local police officers to make sure that this law is enforced. There is also a law that there must be 4″ of clearance in the truck bed. Thus loose litter must be contained within the back of the truck.

Thanks, Trooper Kevin Kennett for a job well done.

Oh, and that occasional apple core I toss out the car window for the birds is legal littering. It will go in my compost bin from now on.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Wallace B. Primm said,

    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the great majority of litter on residential streets in Nashville and surrounding cities is The Tennessean. The Tennessean A.M. is thrown on the streets without permission on both private and public streets. No other source of litter exceeds this trash, and is done in clear violation of law. To make matters worse is that the law enforcement personnel will not enforce the law. Quote from the law: All law enforcement personnel in the state…….. are
    authorized, empowered, and directed to enforcement this law.” This wording is a clear mandate – what is it that the heads of enforcement personnel do not understand permitting themselves to disregard their sworn duties?

  2. 2

    tom church said,

    I live in Jonesborough, Tn.. I have argued for over 1 yr. with a neighbor who is an ex-deputy sheriff in Washington County, Tn.. When he mows his lawn he blows the grass onto the street and leaves it. The grass is normally up to 4 ft. out into the road and heavy rains wash the clippings into an already polluted stream. He claims there is no litter law on the books and I keep telling him that there is. I have called the Washington County Sheriff office and they do nothing. I have called the SHP and left my number-with the SHP office that is supposed to handle this matter but have not received a response. The law enforcement agencies,city,county and state all should be required to enforce the litter laws in this region but they do not. The street in question is steep and the clippings present a road hazard especially when wet. I keep waiting for a serious accident to occur when a motorist hits the wet grass clippings. Tom Church

  3. 3

    Jim Paris said,

    On Tuesday April 20, 2010 at 8:10 AM, I was driving east on I-40 approaching Nashville near the interloop and a vehicle in front of me threw a wrapper from a granola bar out the window. We were in heavy stop and go traffic and a few minutes latter he threw another wrapper out. I got the plate number and make of vehicle. As I was to have a meeting that included five Lt State troopers included I ask about turning him in. I was informed that I would have to swear out a warrent and post $65.00 to get it served. Since it is a misdomentor the person might get a $50.00 fine. So I would be paying more than the person throwing out the wrappers. So much for the litter law.

  4. 4

    aniamich said,

    Every since we moved into our home people have been throwing trash in the yard. This morning we woke up to find a whole bag of trash spread out across the driveway and the yard. Sticking out of the bag was two pieces of mail with the same person’s name and address on them. We decided enough is enough, we shouldn’t have to spend so much time cleaning up other people’s nasty trash so we called to report it.
    The most we were told is that we would still have to pick it up (of course), there was nothing they could do unless we seen it happen (despite the evidence) and that this also happens to the police officer that responded but that she just “picks it up”. The implication being that we shouldn’t complain just “pick it up” because it was most likely an accident. It may have been an accident that it dropped there but leaving it there was not. If people would be more responsible for how they haul trash it wouldn’t end up being someone else’s nightmare.
    What’s the point of having litter laws if the police don’t take it serious? Sad.


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