Litter Grant Program
In Tennessee, there are 96,167 miles of public roads; 14,110 miles are maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and 4,022 of these miles are classified as scenic.
Litter prevention and pickup efforts are critical to keeping roadways safe and maintaining the natural beauty of Tennessee. TDOT spends approximately $19 million annually on the programs described in this report and right-of-way litter pickup contracts.
In 1981, the Soft Drink and Malt Beverage Industries took a comprehensive, proactive approach to prevent their bottles and other trash from becoming litter along Tennessee roadways. As good corporate citizens, the industry lobbied to establish a tax on their products to help fund litter prevention in Tennessee.
Since 1983, the tax revenues from TCA § 67-4-402 and TCA § 57-5-201 have funded the TDOT Highway Beautification Office’s Litter Grant Program. The law gives TDOT discretion on how to best use the funds to clean up and prevent litter, and matters related to litter, such as recycling or litter in storm water runoff.
Litter Grants are available to all 95 counties. Funding is allocated to each county by a formula based on population and road miles. The Litter Grant Program supports a variety of programs and activities that help reduce litter throughout Tennessee. Through the efforts of collaborative county partners, the Litter Grant Program is responsible for removing an average of 11,573 tons of litter each year. Over the 37-year history of the program (1983 to 2020) this equates to the removal of more than 428,200 tons of litter from our roadways.
Litter Grant Program Results through FY 2019:
- 529,736 miles of Tennessee roadways cleaned
- 4,332 illegal roadside dumps removed
- Over 23 million pounds of litter collected
- 9.2 million pounds of litter debris recycled
Click here to view the FY 2020 Litter Grant Annual Report (PDF)
TDOT Litter Grant Training
2021 Litter Grant Training (recording)
Partnership with Keep Tennessee Beautiful
Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB) is the cornerstone of TDOT’s litter prevention education and outreach program. KTnB provides expertise in litter prevention education, litter law enforcement, community enhancement through beautification, and volunteer recruitment and management. TDOT spends a significant amount of money each year on litter pick up and prevention activities. In order to reduce those costs, Tennesseans need to understand the negative impacts of litter on their quality of life, the negative effect on the scenic beauty of Tennessee, and the financial costs associated with litter.
Citizen’s Litter Prevention Hotline
Tennesseans care about preserving the scenic beauty of their community. TCA 54-1-401 through 54-1-406 requires TDOT to establish a system for citizens to report acts of littering from motor vehicles. The law requires that TDOT send the litter offender a letter discouraging littering behavior and informing them of the potential legal consequences of littering. The entire program is anonymous. No records are kept regarding the person who made the report or the person who received the letter.
TDOT maintains a toll-free hotline at 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837).
Citizens may also report littering online at www.tn.gov/tdot/environmental-home/environmental-highway-beautification-office/litter.
The information necessary to report a littering incident includes:
- License plate number (Tennessee plates only)
- Type and make of the vehicle
- Day and time the incident occurred
- Location where the incident occurred
- Type of item tossed or blown from the vehicle
When citizens notify TDOT of a littering incident they observed, TDOT will mail a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle along with a Nobody Trashes Tennessee™ car trash bag or portable ashtray and other anti-litter information. The letter is a gentle reprimand reminding the recipient that littering is against the law and punishable by a fine.
In calendar year 2017, citizens reported 2,272 incidents of littering.