Volunteers Remove 35,500 lbs. of Trash at 8 River Cleanups During ‘Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month’

Nov 24, 2020 4:45 PM ET
Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful October 2020 Cleanup

Volunteers Remove 35,500 lbs. of Trash at 8 River Cleanups During ‘Keep the Ten…

November 24, 2020 /3BL Media/ - October, which was declared by four governors and four mayors to be ‘Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month,’ proved to be a very busy month. 

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) collaborated with volunteers, community stakeholders, businesses, and elected officials to host river cleanups, an online pledge campaign for those wanting to make a difference from home during the pandemic, and issue the 2nd annual Ripple Effect Awards presented by Yamaha Rightwaters™.

“The achievements that our volunteers and partners helped us reach over the last month are a testimony to the spirit we have here in the Tennessee River Valley,” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for KTNRB. 

“We weren’t going to let the pandemic slow down the momentum that’s been growing in stewardship for this river, and we’re so grateful that our volunteers and partners were willing to follow our COVID-19 policy to keep everyone safe while working to keep the Tennessee River beautiful.”


The most staggering statistic that came out of the month was the total trash removed by 103 volunteers participating in eight river cleanups held within four states. The cleanup series was funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Keep America Beautiful and Yamaha Rightwaters™. 

There were 35,500 lbs. of trash removed at these cleanups, including 903 bags of trash and 136 tires. Here’s a breakdown of each cleanup’s totals:

Chattanooga, TN on Nickajack Lake (TN River)        |    3,364 lbs.
Decatur, AL on Wheeler Lake (TN River)                   |    2,617 lbs.
Iuka, MS on Pickwick Lake (TN River)                       |    6,307 lbs.
Waverly, TN on Kentucky Lake (TN River)                 |    4,811 lbs.
Golden Pond, KY on Kentucky Lake (TN River)         |    4,141 lbs.
Maynardville, TN on Norris Lake (Clinch River)         |    5,783 lbs.
Oak Ridge, TN on Melton Hill Lake (Clinch River)    |    4,658 lbs.
Dayton, TN on Chickamauga Lake (TN River)           |    4,094 lbs.

The crew from the national nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters, contributed largely to the numbers by bringing their five 30-foot work boats to take volunteers to clean shorelines at each cleanup.

“These last weeks have been so uplifting—working with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is something we look forward to every year,” said Dan Breidenstein of Living Lands & Waters, who serves as Board Vice President for KTNRB. 

“It’s remarkable to see the huge impact that can be made in such a short time span thanks to volunteers who faced the large amounts of shoreline trash head on.”


During the awareness month, KTNRB also launched a new campaign that empowers Tennessee River Valley residents to stop the litter problem before it reaches our waterways, all without ever having to leave the house. With #Pledge4Rivers, pledgers can visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/pledge4rivers to commit to eliminating one plastic or Styrofoam throwaway item from their daily habits for one year. 

With 38 people making pledges so far, the totals are already adding up:

Single-Use Item         # Pledges                   Items Saved/Year

Plastic Bottles            14                                2,338 plastic bottles saved / year
Styrofoam Cups         13                                1,066 Styrofoam cups saved / year
Plastic Straws             7                                  4,088 plastic straws saved / year
Plastic Bags                3                                  4,500 plastic bags saved / year
11,992 single-use items pledged to be eliminated annually

“Just looking back at Tennessee’s statewide cleanups over the last year, many of those cleanups were centered around flooding and tornadoes that turned properly disposed trash—much of it single-use items—into litter,” said Kyle Howard of Keep Tennessee Beautiful, who also serves as the KTNRB Board President. 

“When more people start moving toward reusable items, there won’t be an opportunity for this unintentional litter to make its way to our waterways.”

#Pledge4Rivers is an ongoing campaign and pledges can be made at www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/pledge4rivers.


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:

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee                       Knoxville, TN Mayor Indya Kincannon
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey                       Lenoir City, TN Mayor Tony Aikens
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves               Cleveland, TN Mayor Kevin Brooks
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Marion County, TN Mayor David Jackson

“The Tennessee River is arguably the most valuable natural resource in the Southeast, and we are grateful to these elected officials for taking a leadership role in recognizing its importance,” said Gibi.


The 2nd annual Ripple Effect Awards presented by Yamaha Rightwaters™ will be presented digitally this year. 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 edited virtual videos this year. Winners will be announced before the end of the year.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the work accomplished in our jam-packed Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month this year,” said Gibi. “We’re so grateful to our sponsors, partners, and especially the volunteers for making it all possible!”

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

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river. They aim to rally communities along the river to preserve, improve and protect the river for generations to come. To date, more than 1,600 volunteers have helped the organization to remove more than 155,000 lbs. of trash.