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Litter increases along the waterways; Ijams nature center works to clean it up

As more people visit trails during the pandemic, there's an increase in littering.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Littering is always a problem in communities, but during the pandemic, the issue has grown. The trash is not only in the streets but in the Tennessee River. 

"We find all kinds of things in the river. We find records, baby dolls, shopping carts, and mattresses,” said Cindy Hassil, development director at Ijams Nature Center. 

Ijams Nature Center will host its annual river rescue cleanup day this week. Hassil said they expect a heavy workload. 

"It's always bad, but what we're noticing is with more people outdoors with disposable masks and other things like that, we see a lot more trash on Ijams nature center's grounds. More people come; that means more trash,” said Hassil. 

A visitor who hiked the trails today noticed some debris. 

"We did. We noticed a plastic drink cup, maybe a Starbucks cup or something,” said Michelle Tapscott, who hikes trails as a hobby. 

Seeing that plastic cup on the trail did not make her happy

“It actually made me sad and a little angry thinking why in a beautiful area in a beautiful park would you discard it when you can just take it and find a trash can,” said Tapscott. 

Hassil believes keeping the river clean is essential because it is more than a home to wildlife. 

“It’s a lot safer when we clean up our waterways. It’s a lot cleaner, it’s a lot better for wildlife, it’s a lot better for humans.” 

"I think we've been blessed with a beautiful world, so we need to take care of it,” said Tapscott.