Volunteers Pull Nearly 10 Tons Of Trash During Tennessee River Celebration Month In October

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2022
photo by Chattanooga group picture

Over 200 volunteers participated at four river cleanups hosted by Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful in three states this October, helping to remove 19,304 lbs.—or nearly 10 tons—of trash from the Tennessee River.

The fifth annual river cleanup series had a record volunteer turnout this October, which was proclaimed as "Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month" by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. This year, the celebration month had a title sponsorship from Oris Watches USA, with volunteer support for the series jumping 54 percent from last year’s record of 130 volunteers at six cleanups.

“Turnout for our cleanups has been phenomenal—it’s almost as if the volunteer support for the
Tennessee River has gone viral, but in real life,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB executive director. “In a time when neighboring river systems are suffering loss from drought, I think people are realizing how precious our water is, and they’re coming out in masses to our cleanups because they see they have the power to make a significant, tangible difference.”

Following the four cleanups in October, KTNRB has reached 104,997 lbs. of trash removed from the
Tennessee River watershed by 489 volunteers in 2022 alone.

Ms. Gibi also pointed to local, state and national partners for the series’ elevated attendance this year.

Volunteers attending the cleanups received swag from Oris, a Swiss watch-making company that has a long history of supporting water quality and conservation efforts, officials said.

“Oris was thrilled to partner with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful for four cleanup events throughout 2022,” said V.J. Geronimo, CEO North America, Oris. “Working with hundreds of volunteers and Oris enthusiasts to clean up nearly five tons of trash was enriching and most of all, impactful. Looking forward to continuing our collaboration as part of our Change For The Better program.”

In addition to Oris’ sponsorship of the cleanup series, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Dept. of Transportation’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter prevention campaign and Keep Tennessee Beautiful have consistently funded "Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month" since it launched in 2018, officials said.

This year’s series consisted of four cleanups held in collaboration with the national nonprofit, Living
Lands & Waters, who brought their 30-foot work boats to supplement KTNRB’s two work boats.
Of the 19,304 lbs. of trash removed at these four cleanups last month, 201 volunteers helped to remove 626 bags of litter and 60 tires, among many other items.

Here’s a breakdown of each cleanup’s totals:

Oct. 1, Knoxville - (Fort Loudoun Lake) | 5,763 lbs. | 49 volunteers;
Oct. 2, Chattanooga - (Chickamauga Lake) | 2,873 lbs. | 65 volunteers;
Oct. 21, Counce, Tn./Iuka, Ms. (Pickwick Lake) | 4,341 lbs. | 59 volunteers; and
Oct. 22, Benton, Ky. (Kentucky Lake) | 6,327 lbs. | 28 volunteers.

Ms. Gibi said that many local partners made the series a success, including:

- Knoxville: Duncan Boat Dock, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Knox County Solid Waste and University of
Tennessee students;
- Chattanooga: Chester Frost Park, Keep Soddy Daisy Beautiful and The Weber School;
- Counce, Tn./Iuka, Ms.: Pickwick Landing State Park, Hardin County Solid Waste and Keep Iuka Beautiful, Pickwick Parrot Heads, Caterpillar-Reman, Clayton Homes-Savannah, Stryker-MS and Hardin County Fishing Club; and
- Benton, Ky.: Town and Country Marina, Waste Path Services, Land Between the Lakes, Friends of Land Between the Lakes and Murray State University students.

After reaching nearly 105,000 lbs. of trash removed from waterways in 2022 alone, KTNRB has to date rallied nearly 3,000 volunteers to remove over 435,000 lbs. of trash since the nonprofit began in 2016.

Ms. Gibi said they’ve come a long way from their initial years of removing around 15,000 lbs. a year.

“Our growing volunteer base is a force that’s truly inspiring, and what’s really encouraging is that many of them are continuing their own cleanup efforts after we move on to the next town,” said Ms. Gibi. “They’re making actual change for our waterways possible, and it’s an honor to get to work with so many enthusiastic change-makers every day.”

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

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