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Knox County to crack down on litterbugs by enforcing stiffer punishments

Commissioners say they plan to enforce stricter punishment for law breakers, including 40 hours of litter pickup.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — In the middle of "No-litter November," Knox County leaders plan to add new punishment for lawbreakers. Twenty years have passed since we've seen any updates to litter laws, but on Monday night, county commissioners voted unanimously to add heftier fines.

Knox County Commissioners Carson Dailey and Larson Jay advocated for clean roadways. Both said they are passionate about preserving Knox County’s beauty. 

"Our litter ordinance was not very strong at all," Dailey said.

"Tonight, we're actually considering an ordinance change that really puts more emphasis on litter control, litter protection and enforcement," Jay said.

In a nutshell, the county wants to eliminate the divide between state and county punishment. Now if you're caught littering you can expect more consequences.

"Knox County is beautiful. Why would you want to litter? Why would you want to throw a coke can, a beer can, a McDonald's, whatever out the window for?" Dailey asked.

If you litter, you may as well throw some time and cash out of the window, too. In the smallest degree, tossing a soda can out of the car could still land you the same $50 fine. What's different? You will also get 40 hours of litter pickup, too.

County leaders said zero citations have been issued for littering in 2021. According to Dailey, that's about to change. 

"Changing the litter ordinance to make it more punishable," he said.

The county hired an environmental officer who will investigate dumping sights and track litter back to its owner.

”If you've got an Amazon box and it's on the side of the road and it's got your name and address on it -- you're getting a ticket," Dailey said.

Not just an Amazon box. Anything that has your personal information on it, he said, you're responsible for. 

"You get up past that 11 pounds you could get all the way up to $2,500," Dailey said. Meaning the more you dump, the higher the fine.

If you see something, commissioners urge you to say something. A litter report form is available online.

"All you've got to do is get a make of the car hopefully a plate. Turn it into our environmental officer. We will go after them," Dailey said.

There are several ways to help. You can start by not littering, but if you’d like to get more hands-on, you can participate in a nearby cleanup event. Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Adopt-A-Highway groups regularly organize local cleanup events.

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