Let’s talk some trash. Literally.

Language of Liberty


 There was a time long ago when everyone recycled their own trash.

Paper was used as a fire-starter in the stove or fireplace. Most everyone raised a garden and canned their own vegetables so there were no tin cans to throw out. Soft drinks were sold in recycled glass bottles, on which you paid a deposit, so you were sure to bring them back to the store. Plastic water bottles didn’t exist, as public drinking fountains were everywhere. Every glass jar, bread bag, tin pie plate, rubber band, box, and paper bag was neatly stored away in the cellar to use again. Everything was built in the USA to last and was repaired as needed. I simply do not recall ever having to haul away trash, except to the burn barrel in the back yard. It was considered immoral, not just illegal, to litter the roadways or let trash just lay around. And many of you remember the term used for people who did.

Most of the items we buy today are junk made in China and break very quickly. We have more paper, plastic, packaging, and cans to throw out than ever. That’s why we have Convenience Centers in every community. White County has 11 convenience centers. The location and hours are online at WhiteCountyTN.gov.

The White County Commission passed a Resolution in August 2020 “to provide Standards for Health and Safety conditions for residential and non-residential property in White County…for the prevention of dangerous conditions resulting from overgrown vegetation, accumulation of debris, trash, litter and garbage; or the presence of a vacant, dilapidated building or structure”. (See August County Commission minutes, whitecountytn.gov)

The Commission intends to create a new Health & Safety Department and hire a new White County Codes Enforcement Officer, an appointed bureaucrat. The officer is to answer complaints from your neighbors (see Resolution, section IV). The job description can be found online at whitecountytn.gov in the September County Commission minutes.

Note that the very first item in the new Codes Enforcement Officer’s job description (see September 2020 minutes) is to “Enforce provisions of the INTERNATIONAL PROPERTY MAINTENANCE CODE.” In the 2019 overview document, “International Code Council’s International Property Maintenance Standards”, 55 percent of the provisions in the code are for exterior inspection of buildings and property. Interior inspection make up the remaining 45 percent. The enforcement officer is responsible to enforce a standard that has little to do with the issues of trash, overgrowth, nuisance, or vacant buildings. It has more to do with inspecting the condition of homes, inside and out.

Tennessee has numerous state laws already in place that are routinely enforced by various state agencies to keep our state clean, healthy, and safe. They address the issues listed in the County Commission’s Resolution. White County’s Resolution conflicts with several state laws.

Farms are not exempt from the County’s Resolution. However, Tennessee has a “Right To Farm” law. It is summarized: “Laws exempt farmers and other agricultural operators from complying with run-of-the-mill nuisance laws - laws that restrict certain kinds of noisy activity like operation of heavy machinery, or prohibit the use of pesticides, for example. These do not constitute a legal nuisance when they’re a byproduct of farming or agricultural activity.” TCA § § 44-18-101 through 104; 43-26-103 and 104

The White County Sheriff’s Department enforces a “Nuisance Ordinance” already in place for such things as barking dogs, etc.

Tennessee state law makes it illegal to dump solid waste anywhere except designated convenience centers, unless the property owner manages their own waste, according to the Solid Waste Act, Title 68: Health, Safety and Environmental Protection, Chapter 211 - Solid Waste Disposal.

A search of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) website show that only two complaints have been filed in White County since August 2017 for illegal dumping. Both complaints were against White County. There were no private property complaints.

To file a complaint, simply call TDEC AT 888-891-8332. The EPA Southeastern Region 4 District office can be reached at 404-562-8335.

Incidents of roadside dumping are covered under the Tennessee Litter Law, Code 39-14-502, and enforced by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP). Contact the Litter Hotline at 615-741-2877, file a complaint online at tn.gov/tdot or call the TN Highway Patrol at their Cookeville office at (931) 528-8496.

The White County Highway Department is responsible for mowing the roadsides, and they do a good job keeping the county free of overgrown vegetation so traffic is not obscured. They may mow up to 20 ft. from the center line.

The issue of dilapidated buildings is enforced by General Sessions Court, except on owner-occupied property.

In short, Tennessee currently believes rural residents should be able have whatever they want on their property as long as it does not harm others. This is considered “Common Law,” and is the basis for our Constitution. This is why people love the freedom of rural life. To them, Homeowners Associations would be like living in hell.

The 4th Amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” Private property rights are human rights, and must be PROTECTED by government, not violated by it. In conclusion: Does one of the poorest counties in Tennessee need a new bureaucratic department added to the county budget? Especially when local politicians claim each time taxes are raised that the county doesn’t have enough money?  And should a county government pit neighbor against neighbor or violate private property rights? NO!

The Language of Liberty series is an outreach project of Center for Self Governance to educate citizens in the principles of liberty. The views expressed by authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG.    


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment