Tennessee Agencies Join Forces to Reduce PPE Litter

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, and Keep Tennessee Beautiful are joining forces to reduce personal protective equipment or PPE litter during the COVID-19 pandemic, while highlighting the proper ways to dispose of PPE and face masks.

[Editor’s note: Keep Tennessee Beautiful is an adjunct service of the University of Memphis and provides expertise in litter prevention education, litter law enforcement, community beautification, plus volunteer recruitment and management through 33 local affiliates.]

This joint effort will produce a series of social media posts highlighting proper PPE disposal as well as the Tennessee DOT’s “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” litter prevention campaign.

H. Clay Bright III

“This partnership is a response to a rise in PPE litter … on [highway] rights-of-way, and how we, as state agencies, can work together to share one impactful message,” explained Clay Bright, Tennessee DOT’s commissioner, in a statement.

All social media posts will have common messaging including:

  • Single-use masks, gloves, and wipes should not be placed into recycling containers or discarded on the ground. Improper disposal creates health and environmental hazards, the agencies said.
  • All PPE should be discarded into trash receptacles.
  • Wearing a reusable or cloth mask instead of single-use masks can reduce the amount of PPE waste going to landfills.

The Tennessee DOT said it is doing its part to meet these challenges by spending $15 million annually on litter pickup and prevention education. It has also decreased the amount of roadside litter by 43 percent since 2006.

Still, at any given time, nearly 100 million pieces of litter occur on Tennessee roadsides, the agency said.

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