Words by Smiley Team
As human populations grow, expansion into natural environments is inevitable. And as people have more access to nature, litter is bound to increase. A 2021 study from Keep America Beautiful, a non-profit centered on improving community environments, found that each year over 50 billion pieces of litter are discarded on US roads and into the ocean.
This litter finds its way into state parks and nature, leading to waste and pollution with everything from plastic waste to illegal tire dumping. That's why one Tennessee state park has made it its goal to address this.
The T.O. Fuller State Park started a project to update its 2.5-mile-long paths with rubber made from tires dumped illegally in and around the park. “This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation.
“It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up then have people enjoy the benefits in a new way.”
The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by a Tire Environmental Act Program grant of $250,000, and near-equal amounts from other state department programs. The tires were repurposed by Patriot Tire Recycling.
Over the course of the project volunteers collected over 24,000 dumped tires, from all types of vehicles including passenger cars, trucks, and heavy equipment. The cleanup had 450 registered volunteers and saw 10,000 tires collected in one day.
“We’re pleased to see discarded tires recycled to improve T.O. Fuller State Park,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “The new trail is a great example of collaboration with our federal, state and city partners to invest in our shared environment and a treasured community asset.”
The plan also saved a lot of local money, as money goes to cleaning up litter in nature and in roadways.
“(Tennessee Department of Transportation) spends more than $19 million annually picking up litter and educating the public about the negative impacts,” said TDOT Interim Commissioner Joseph Galbato, III. “We are thankful for collaborative partnerships like the ‘Tires to Trails’ project which not only addresses the litter problem but turns it into a meaningful and positive long-lasting resource for the community.”
DONATE: Feel free to donate to T.O. Fuller Park directly if you support its work.
SUPPORT: Make a plan, that any time you go hiking or walking, or whatever pick up at least one piece of litter you see.