KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The numbers are staggering. Twenty-three million pounds of litter are removed from Tennessee Highways every year. Over 4,000 miles of Tennessee roadways were cleared of litter, according to the Department of Transportation.

Cleaning up litter has been a battle waged for decades across Tennessee and the country. Fortunately, there are people who care and clean up others carelessness. There are several different programs for those wanting to help.


Businesses, civic clubs, churches and other groups may Adopt-A-Road by agreeing to pick-up litter at least twice a year along a section of a Knox County road. In Knox County, more than 118 tons of litter were collected by 555 Adopt-A-Road volunteers who cleared 906 miles of roadways.

Knox County provides bags, safety vests, gloves, litter pickers and roadside safety signs. After groups arrange a cleanup, Knox County Solid Waste will pick up the bags along the roadside or groups may take the material directly to the trash areas.

Keith Lovejoy’s landscaping business volunteers for the Adopt-A-Road program. Last March he said his group picked-up 106 bags of trash along 2.7 miles of roads.

“You tell them how many guys got working, they’ll supply you with the gloves, with that vest you have on. They’ll supply you with these bags,” said Lovejoy.

Adopt-A-Road Coordinator Tom Salter said he gets feedback from litter crews that they will never allow someone to litter from their vehicle again after they pick up trash. He said about 90 groups currently volunteer with the program.

Ray Schuler says most of the litter is trash people should just take home and throw away. “One of the strangest things that I’ve found is a bowling ball that was tossed out. I don’t understand the wording before it went out the window,” said Schuler.

Salter said the county has also had problems with trash left on the side of the road after a car accident. Wrecker companies are obligated to clear the debris from the accident, but Salter said many times the debris does not get picked up. One of hte litter crews picked up a car’s door panel on the side of the road.

How to help: Sign up to Adopt-A-Road in Knox County by visiting, calling (865) 215-5644 or emailing


Tennessee’s Adopt-A-Highway Program provides an opportunity for individuals and groups concerned about the environment to take an active role in preserving and protecting Tennessee’s natural beauty. Since the program’s inception in 1989, our volunteers have collected more than 12 million pounds of litter from Tennessee’s roadsides.

Groups are asked to make a commitment to adopt approximately two miles of roadway for at least one year and conduct a total of four litter pickups. One pickup per quarter/season is recommended, although groups may conduct pickups more frequently.

How to help: Contact Mark McAdoo, the Adopt-A-Highway Statewide Program Coordinator, at or fill out the online volunteer application.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful

Keep Knoxville Beautiful has been working hard for almost four decades. They help supply volunteers with supplies for litter clean ups, help educate kids and even conduct an extensive litter assessment to check progress.

“They’ll pick a location they think needs to be cleaned,” said Alanna McKissack, the program’s coordinator. “ They’ll gather their group or we’ll help them gather volunteers through our network. Then we’ll go out that day and work.”

Every year, Keep Knoxville Beautiful removes an average of 48 tons of litter from roads and waterways.

“I don’t know how you can just throw it out when there are dumpsters,” said Megan Allen, a senior at the University of Tennessee. Allen is one of several dozen students who work with Keep Knoxville Beautiful.

How to help: Sign up to be a volunteer by visiting, calling (865) 521-6957 or emailing

Keep Tennessee Beautiful

The state’s litter grant program is funded by a fee on the beverage and malt liquor industry. Keep Tennessee Beautiful currently has 24 different groups working together to prevent litter.

They also help with recycling, education and “greening.” The group is working to plant more trees and vegetation.

Keep Tennessee Beautiful said planting trees are not only good for health and livability of, but trees planted within 50 feet of a residence can raise property values by 9%. They also said public housing areas with trees and vegetation have shown a 50% reduction in both violent and property crimes.

How to help: Contact Keep Tennessee Beautiful to learn more and join in on the effort.