130 Volunteers Pull 34,500 Pounds Of Trash In October, Smashing River Group’s Goal Of Removing 125,000 Pounds In 1 Year

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Scottsboro group
Scottsboro group

A sum of 134 volunteers participated at six river cleanups hosted by Keep the Tennessee River 
Beautiful, helping to remove 34,481 lbs. of trash from the Tennessee and Cumberland 
rivers in October. The month was declared by four governors and four mayors to be ‘Keep the 
Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month.’

“This past month’s success is a testament to the energy buzzing around the Tennessee River 
watershed thanks to dozens of invested partners, hundreds of passionate volunteers, and many 
supporting sponsors,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB executive director. “None of this would be 
possible without them, and more than ever, I think we’re seeing the significant impact we can make for this river when we work together.”

October’s massive total helped KTNRB to blow out of the water (pun intended) their ‘125,000 lb. 
Goal for 2021 River Cleanups presented by YETI.’ The river group is now sitting at 147,511 lbs. of trash removed by 671 volunteers just this year, which is more than twice their previous record of 61,500 lbs. set in 2020. KTNRB was able to extend its goal of removing 100,000 lbs. to 125,000 lbs. earlier this year after receiving a sponsorship from YETI, allowing the group to host more river cleanups.

Of the 147,511 lbs. of trash removed this year, Ms. Gibi estimated that single-use drink containers such as aluminum cans, Styrofoam cups, or glass and plastic bottles comprised over 44,500 lbs. She called that number a “lowball estimate” percentage of what filled the 3,176 bags of trash removed by volunteers in 2021.

KTNRB set other new records and firsts with river cleanups last month. For starters, 38 volunteers 
removed the most trash at any cleanup held on Pickwick Lake in Iuka, Miss./Hardin County, Tenn. 
with 6,850 lbs. removed. 

A new record was also set for the most trash removed at one KTNRB cleanup, with 30 volunteers 
removing 12,489 lbs. of trash in just four hours. Much of the trash collected that day included dock 
floats, large Styrofoam blocks, and tires, presumably accumulated on the Kentucky Lake shores in 
Benton, Ky. following severe tornadoes and floods that have occurred over the last few years.
The month also introduced some firsts for KTNRB, the most obvious being a cleanup held on the 
Cumberland River, which is out of the nonprofit’s typical area of service. A Swiss watch-making 
company happened to be hosting a conference for their North American offices in Nashville, heard 
about the river cleanup group, and asked them to host a river cleanup from the Opryland Convention Center’s nearby boat ramp so that their 40+ attendees could contribute to the 
community where they were convening.

Other firsts for KTNRB last month came with cleanups hosted in the cities of Ten Mile, Tn., 
Scottsboro, Al., and Benton, Ky. for the first time.

“It’s exciting to see energy building in areas where we’ve been hosting cleanups, but I’m always 
even more inspired when we can see people’s eyes light up when we’re hosting a cleanup in a 
community for the first time,” Ms. Gibi said, noting that Scottsboro, Al. area had four new river 
adoptions following their cleanup held there on Oct. 1. 

“I love this cleanup series, because you can really see the impact that’s possible when we’re 
reinforced by the energy level that the crew from a powerhouse like Living Lands & Waters brings,” Ms. Gibi said.

Four of October’s cleanups were assisted by the national nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters, 
who brought their five 30-foot work boats to supplement KTNRB’s 26-foot boat. LL&W has been 
operating since 1998, removing more than 11 million lbs. of trash from North American rivers and 
ultimately playing a large part in KTNRB’s forming along with the Tennessee Valley Authority 
and Keep Tennessee Beautiful.

“These cleanups were fun for everyone involved and I feel like this month in particular really 
showcased just how much KTNRB has grown,” said Dan Breidenstein of Living Lands & Waters who also serves as KTNRB board VP. “We always enjoy working with them and it’s rewarding to see them accomplish so much.

Throughout the month of October, KTNRB traveled to the four states touched by the main stem of 
the Tennessee River, which includes Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky. The cleanup 
series was funded by TVA, Tennessee Department of Transportation, KTnB, Yamaha Rightwaters 
and YETI. 

Of the 34,481 lbs. of trash removed at these six cleanups last month, 134 volunteers helped to 
remove 633 bags of trash and 111 tires, among many other items. Here’s a breakdown of each 
cleanup’s totals:

10.1.21 Scottsboro, Al. (Guntersville Lake) | 3,917 lbs. | 8 volunteers
10.2.21 Ten Mile, Tn. (Watts Bar Lake) | 5,584 lbs. | 13 volunteers
10.13.21 Nashville, Tn. (Cumberland River) | 4,280 lbs. | 42 volunteers
10.15.21 Iuka, Ms. (Pickwick Lake) | 6,850 lbs. | 38 volunteers
10.16.21 Benton, Ky. (Kentucky Lake) | 12,489 lbs. | 30 volunteers
10.25.21 Knoxville, Tn. (Fort Loudoun Lake) | 1,361 lbs. | 3 volunteers

Each year, KTNRB seeks proclamations from elected officials to declare October as ‘Keep the 
Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month.’ This year, four governors and four mayors made 
proclamations, including:

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Knoxville, TN Mayor Indya Kincannon
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey Kingston, TN Mayor Timothy Neal
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Scottsboro, AL Mayor Jim McCamy
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Florence, AL Mayor Andy Betterton

The 3rd annual Ripple Effect Awards presented by Yamaha Rightwaters will be presented digitally 
again this year due to COVID-19, and nominations to KTNRB were closed last month. River 
champions in three different geographic regions within the Tennessee River watershed are 
recognized for their river stewardship.

Traditionally, the awards are presented at a banquet held before a large river cleanup during Keep 
the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month. While the highly sought-after glass-blown trophies will still be awarded, they will be presented via professionally produced virtual videos later this year. Winners will be announced before the end of the year.

For information on Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s ongoing programs or to view their river 
cleanup schedule, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org.

Ten Mile group
Ten Mile group

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