‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month’ to Officially Kick Off Sept. 29

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) will soon launch a month-long tour of weekend cleanups and awards ceremonies in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky in celebration of October being declared ‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month.’

“We’re excited to get out with our new boat and generate awareness for the Tennessee River, which is arguably the most intrinsic foundation block to our region’s basic life source, our thriving economy, and our very culture,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s new 25-foot-long boat ready for upcoming river cleanups

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s new 25-foot-long boat ready for upcoming river cleanups


The new, KTNRB boat is a 25-foot-long aluminum john boat, and will debut with public cleanups on this tour, taking volunteers out to do river cleanups and invasive plant pulls near public park shorelines.

Living Lands & Waters, a national nonprofit that cleans North American rivers, will assist with two cleanups in East Tennessee on September 28-29, supplementing the cleanups with five 30-foot-long john boats, opening the opportunity for 75 volunteers to head out on the river.


Gibi said that it was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), who challenged KTNRB to celebrate an awareness month for the Tennessee River. The awareness month was launched in the state of Tennessee in 2018 and has now expanded into a four-state awareness campaign this year. A governor’s proclamation will be presented in each state declaring the month for the Tennessee River.

KTNRB volunteers ride back into shore on a Living Lands & Waters boat at an April 2019 cleanup in Oak Ridge, TN.

KTNRB volunteers ride back into shore on a Living Lands & Waters boat at an April 2019 cleanup in Oak Ridge, TN.

“The momentum we’ve seen spread throughout the Tennessee River Valley in KTNRB’s three-year existence is indicative of how much people care for and want to protect our river,” said Kyle Howard, KTNRB Board President who also works at Keep Tennessee Beautiful. “We’re just happy that Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is able to facilitate events and resources that are inspiring so many people to take action!”

TVA and Keep Tennessee Beautiful were the founding partners who initiated the formation of KTNRB as a nonprofit that would rally support for the 652-mile Tennessee River. To date, KTNRB has rallied more than 1,000 volunteers to remove over 70,000 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River and its tributaries.


As KTNRB Month is celebrated in different states, Keep Tennessee Beautiful, Keep Alabama Beautiful, Keep Mississippi Beautiful, and the Land Between the Lakes have served as acting co-organizers. Local nonprofits such as Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Keep Guntersville Beautiful, My Lake Guntersville, and Friends of Land Between the Lakes are also supporting partners.

Additionally, the cleanups in Knoxville and Lenoir City are largely funded through a Tennessee Department of Transportation Special Litter Grant. In the grant, litter was collected and analyzed from the same sites in 2018 and will be compared to litter collected this year.


Coupled with the river cleanups during ‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month will be the 1st annual Ripple Effect Awards presented by Yamaha Rightwaters. Judges from national-level organizations and companies have been enlisted to select from nominated hard-working champions for the Tennessee River to be recognized in three separate state ceremonies.


Volunteers may register for any cleanup at www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/upcomingcleanups.

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Ripple Effect Awards to Highlight Champions for the Tennessee River


Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) is currently seeking applications for the 1st annual Tennessee River Ripple Effect Awards presented by Yamaha Rightwaters™. The awards will recognize winners of nine categories at ceremonies in the four states of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

“There are so many individuals and groups that have long been working to protect and improve our waterways, often playing the role of unsung heroes on the Tennessee River, which is ironically also known as the ‘Singing River,’” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for KTNRB. “We feel it’s time to sing their praises!”

The goal of the awards is to inspire new river champions in sharing success stories, thus the concept behind the ‘Ripple Effect’ title.

The 2019 Ripple Effect Award categories include:

• Conservation
• Adopt a River Mile
• Standout Youth
• Marina
• Corporation
• Government Department
• Keep America Beautiful Affiliate
• Elected Official
• Beacon (ongoing leadership)

Each winner will receive a glass trophy that resembles a rippling river. The awards are sponsored by Yamaha Rightwaters™, a sustainability initiative of the international watercraft company, Yamaha.

"Yamaha Rightwaters is fighting to protect our most precious and essential natural resource – water,” said Martin Peters Yamaha Marine Division Manager, Government Relations. “It embodies all of Yamaha's conservation initiatives, and becomes a platform for many plans the company has in store to improve our water resources.

“We are proud to partner with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful in their efforts to preserve and protect this amazing resource so that future generations can continue to enjoy the Tennessee River for decades to come."

Held in sync with cleanups celebrating October as ‘Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month,’ awards will be presented at three locations:

Tennessee Awards

Sunday, September 29 @ 9:30 a.m.
Lakeside Tavern

10911 Concord Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37922

Alabama/Mississippi Awards
Friday, October 4 @ 8:30 a.m.
Guntersville State Park Lodge

1155 Lodge Drive, Guntersville, AL 35976

Kentucky Awards

Saturday, October 19, @ 8:30 a.m.
Kenlake State Park Bayview Building
Kenlake Resort Park, Benton, KY 42025


Nomination forms may be submitted at www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/awards.

Marinas Install Art-Wrapped Waste Receptacles to Keep Cigarettes Out of Waterways

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Targeting the No. 1 littered item in the world.

With recent reports finding the Tennessee River to possess some of the highest levels of microplastics of rivers studied to date, 150 cigarette waste receptacles are currently being installed in five states within the river’s watershed. Plus, a recently received $5,000 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) grant from Keep America Beautiful® (KAB) will fund an additional 200 receptacles to be installed later this summer.

In January 2019, CNN reported cigarette filters, which contain tightly compacted plastic fibers, to be the No. 1 plastic pollutant in the world. Furthermore, littered cigarettes that are inevitably washed into waterways have been known to contain enough toxins with the potential to kill aquatic life within two gallons of surrounding water.

In an effort to reduce this impact and change societal habits, 24 marinas in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia will be installing metal waste collection receptacles in a project coordinated by Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB). Serving more than the mere function of collecting discarded cigarettes, the receptacles also feature educational art wraps.

“Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world because we’ve accepted the act as part of our culture for generations,” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for KTNRB. “Our goal with these art wraps is to inform users of the detriments of cigarette waste in the water, such as plastic and toxic pollutants that harm our aquatic life, and then gradually change those accepted norms through awareness.”

Staff at Caney Creek Marina show off their site’s new cigarette waste receptacles.

Staff at Caney Creek Marina show off their site’s new cigarette waste receptacles.

Working to support the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Tennessee Valley Clean Marina Program, KTNRB requested the high-quality receptacles from Keep America Beautiful, who donated and the durable infrastructure pieces.

TVA funding and a special litter grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation paid for the art wraps. Keep Tennessee Beautiful contributed funding to support delivery of the 90 cigarette waste receptacles to marinas in Tennessee.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful hired Dan Frye, a local graphic designer, to design the art wraps, while Allen Sign Company out of Knoxville, Tenn. printed them onto the receptacles.

TVA connected KTNRB with the 200+ marinas along the Tennessee River watershed, of which 24 marinas quickly responded and volunteered to install and maintain the receptacles on their properties. (See end of document for list.)

The new KAB grant awarded to KTNRB will fund another 200 cigarette waste receptacles with the same educational art wraps.

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Lakeside Marina on Cherokee Lake

Rather than disposing of the collected cigarette butts, participating marinas will ship them to be recycled. TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company that recycles hard-to-recycle materials, partnered with KAB in a nationwide effort, recycling plastic cigarette filters at no additional expense. All 52 recipients in KAB’s 2019 CLPP will participate in this recycling initiative.

Marinas located within the Tennessee River watershed may submit requests for the free cigarette waste receptacles at www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/cigarettelitter.

The first batch of cigarette waste receptacles have already been delivered to Tennessee marinas and will soon be shipped to marinas in the other four states. The participating marinas in the first round include:

Boone Lake Marina | Boone Lake
Jay's Boat Dock | Boone Lake
Greenlee Campground & Marina | Cherokee Lake
Lakeside Marina | Cherokee Lake
B and B Marina | Chickamauga Lake
Chickamauga Marina | Chickamauga Lake
Gold Point Yacht Harbor | Chickamauga Lake
Pine Harbor Marina | Chickamauga Lake
Volunteer Landing Marina | Fort Loudon Lake
Birdsong Resort | Kentucky Lake
Paris Landing State Park Marina | Kentucky Lake
Perryville Marina | Kentucky Lake
Riverstone Marina | Kentucky Lake
Erwin Marine Riverfront | Nickajack Lake
Ocoee Inn and Marina | Parksville Lake
Watauga Lakeshore Resort and Marina | Watauga Lake
Caney Creek Marina | Watts Bar Lake

Jackson County Park Marina | Guntersville Lake
Sunrise Marina | Guntersville Lake
Florence Harbor Marina | Pickwick Lake

Big Bear Resort | Kentucky Lake
Lakeview Cottages and Marina | Kentucky Lake

Aqua Yacht Harbor | Pickwick Lake

Lake Blue Ridge Marina | Blue Ridge Lake

Click HERE to listen to a National Recreation and Parks Association podcast with KTNRB’s Executive Director, Kathleen Gibi, and Keep Tennessee Beautiful’s Executive Director, Missy Marshall, as well as their Affiliate Services and Training Coordinator, Edmond McDavis III, speaking about the consequences of cigarette litter and solutions coming to the Tennessee River watershed.

Safe Harbor Aqua Yacht Marina Seeks to Go The Extra River Mile in Green Efforts


Safe Harbor Aqua Yacht Marina is a sponsor for the 2019 Pickwick Lake Cleanup. We caught up with Rodney Vanhoose, General Manager, to find out why Safe Harbor chose to make an investment in the Tennessee River.

Tell us about Safe Harbor.

Safe Harbor is the world’s largest owner of marinas with about 80 marina properties from the east to the west coast (and growing). Our marina, Safe Harbor Aqua Yacht Marina, is one of the larger marinas on the river system.

The river’s health is vital to our business and way of life. Our parent company has hired two environmental consulting firms to make sure that we are environmentally responsible and doing the right thing. Our goal is to exceed federal environmental expectations.

How long have you been at the marina on Pickwick?

I’ve been here at Aqua Yacht Marina for 27 years. I’ve lived in Hardin County my whole life and it’s a great place to live and work. I didn’t make plans to stay here my whole life, but I guess I just can’t keep away from the lake. It’s home.

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Why did you choose to invest in Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s Pickwick Lake Cleanup?

I didn’t realize just how many people would come out to the cleanup at our lake until I saw it for myself the last couple of years. It was great to see the big turnout—to know that so many people understand the value of our river and have a passion to preserve its beauty.

We have our staff go out and participate in the cleanup each year. It obviously is important to us to keep the marina area and lake in general as clean as possible. It’s not just a good thing to do. It’s about safety and this cleanup tradition will help to keep our lake clean and looking good for generations to come.

What’s your favorite thing about Pickwick Lake personally?

I guess we take for granted how beautiful the lake is, and the fact that we live where other people come to vacation. I guess you could say we’re on permanent vacation! Even when I’m on land, I drive over the dam and enjoy that beautiful view on a regular basis. Not everyone gets a view like that every day.

What advice do you have to boaters and visitors to any part of the Tennessee River?

I would just encourage everyone to do the best they can to keep trash bags in their boats so that it stays in the boat.

We offer free pump out and we encourage people to take advantage of it so that the sewage goes where it’s supposed to. We also hope people use our recycling bins stationed on each of our piers. I just hope everyone strives to be good environmental stewards so that we can all enjoy Pickwick Lake and its beauty.

To learn more about Safe Harbor Aqua Yacht Marina, visit www.AquaYachtHarbor.com.


This March, Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) will launch the ‘Tennessee River Grand Slam Cleanup,’ bringing four major cleanups spanning 400+ river miles in four weeks.

“Each of these four cleanups are unique in their own right, showcasing the diverse scenery and cultural resources that the Tennessee River has to offer—precisely why we need to keep it clean and beautiful,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director. “Volunteers will serve as part of a force of millions nationwide in the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup, and now also as needed recovery after damage from recent flooding in each community.”

Pickwick Tires.jpg

The cleanups will offer a timely service following severe flooding that occurred in the wettest February ever recorded for the Tennessee Valley. States of emergency were declared for Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Though the river is expected to have receded, it will leave behind debris where flood waters temporarily occupied higher grounds.

Tennessee River Grand Slam Cleanup Schedule *Further details on next page.

• Friday, March 15, 2019 noon – 3 p.m. | Iuka, MS | Pickwick Lake

• Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:30 a.m. – noon | The Shoals, AL | Pickwick & Wilson Lakes

• Saturday, April 6, 2019 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Knoxville, TN | Fort Loudoun Lake

• Sunday, April 7, 2019 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. | Dayton, TN | Chickamauga Lake

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KTNRB will work with volunteers to document the types of litter collected, as the cleanups are also taking place one month after German scientist Dr. Andreas Fath released his findings that the Tennessee River was one of the most plastic littered rivers in the world. In 2017, Fath swam the 652-mile river, collecting samples that returned high levels of microplastics.


The Grand Slam Cleanup campaign will receive reinforcement from Living Lands & Waters, a national nonprofit that has removed more than 10 million pounds of trash from American rivers. Chad Pregracke, Living Lands & Waters founder and 2013 CNN Hero of the Year, brings a crew that make the cleanups memorable and fun-filled for volunteers. LL&W will drive volunteers on plate boats to reach more remote shorelines for litter collection.

“LL&W is thrilled to be able to assist Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful with its Grand Slam cleanups!” said Pregracke. “Their leadership will maintain this great natural resource for the area that is truly one of the most beautiful rivers I've ever had the privilege to work on!"

This Tennessee River Grand Slam Cleanup is part of a nationwide effort known as the Great American Cleanup®, a signature program of national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful®. Through this far-reaching effort, which takes place from March 20 through June 20, Keep America Beautiful’s national network of community-based affiliates host cleanups in more than 20,000 communities, engaging over 1.5 million volunteers and participants.

“With 80 percent of marine debris coming from land, stopping the flow of litter to the oceans is of paramount Importance," said Helen Lowman, President & CEO for Keep America Beautiful. "We're thrilled to join Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and its partnering organizations in this effort to keep the Tennessee River and neighboring watersheds litter-free through this notable Great American Cleanup initiative."

Lowman and her team will join the cleanup in Iuka, MS on Friday, March 15, to officially kickoff the Great American Cleanup nationwide and to launch Keep America Beautiful’s new Common Ground Campaign. Local elected officials have been invited to each of the Tennessee River Grand Slam Cleanup events to demonstrate that the cleanliness of our communities—and, by extension, our waterways—is Common Ground, a non-partisan issue. The hope is that this new initiative will serve as crucial, tangible steps for the nation moving forward.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the first KAB affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river, seeking to maintain the beauty and health of the Tennessee River watershed. The nonprofit is the brainchild of a collaboration between the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB), and Living Lands and Waters after the organizations co-sponsored a Tennessee River awareness campaign in 2015.

Thanks to support and partnership from TVA, KTnB, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful has been able to rally 704 volunteers to remove 55,655 pounds of trash from regional waterways in just over two years. The upcoming cleanups are expected to significantly increase those statistics.


Pickwick Cleanup 2017.jpg

Volunteers will need to wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and shoes that can get muddy. All cleanup supplies will be provided. Each volunteer will receive a t-shirt and some other KTNRB swag. To register, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org.

• Friday, March 15, 2019 | noon – 3 p.m. | Iuka, MS | Pickwick Lake
Volunteers will receive free lunch at the Aqua Yacht Harbor Grille at noon and then hit the water for cleanup at 1 p.m. This unique location on the Tennessee River is a popular vacationing site and touches on the state borders for Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. This event will serve as the official kickoff cleanup for the 2019 Great American Cleanup.

• Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 8:30 a.m. – noon | The Shoals, AL | Pickwick & Wilson lakes
This unique cleanup will impact four cities that meet at the Tennessee River in Alabama—including Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia—(a.k.a. “The Shoals”). Volunteers can clean the shoreline from Riverfront Park, located in front of the notable Cypress Moon Studios. Now a concert venue, recording and film production studio, it was once the location of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where Bob Dylan, the Commodores, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Melissa Etheridge, Jimmy Buffet, and other legends recorded. Living Lands & Waters will transport volunteers via boat from the park to other shorelines along The Shoals. Alternatively, volunteers can hop in a shuttle van to be taken to Living Lands & Waters boats working at a higher elevation on Wilson Lake, putting in at Fleet Harbor. After the cleanup, lunch will be provided back at Riverfront Park. Pre-registered volunteers will enjoy a free tour of Cypress Moon Studios!

• Saturday, April 6, 2019 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Knoxville, TN | Fort Loudoun Lake
This effort is supporting Ijams Nature Center’s 30th annual Ijams River Rescue, which averages more than 800 volunteers each year. As part of the Ijams “Take Action” campaign, a Living Lands & Waters staff member will speak in the multi-purpose room in Ijams Nature Center at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 5. This annual Ijams cleanup was the kickoff event for the 2015 Tennessee River Tour, a campaign cleanup initiative that led to the forming of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, so KTNRB’s history runs deep with this one!
 Visit www.Ijams.org/ijams-river-rescue to register for this particular event.

• Sunday, April 7, 2019 | 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. | Dayton, TN | Chickamauga Lake
This is a first-time cleanup site for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful! The cleanup will take place two days prior to Major League Fishing’s prestigious Bass Pro Tour that will be aired on the Discovery Channel. Chickamauga Lake is a well-known fishing mecca, and MLF’s professional anglers reacted enthusiastically when this fishing site was announced on the Bass Pro Tour. Volunteers will be provided a free meal following the cleanup.

To register for a Tennessee River Grand Slam Cleanup, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org/register.

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1st Annual Polar Plunge Makes Another Splash: Proceeds Presented to Keep the TN River Beautiful

Julie Graham of 9 Lakes of East Tennessee (right) and Lauren Hurdle of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (left) present Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s Kathleen Gibi (middle) with a proceeds check from the 1st Annual Polar Plunge held at Cherokee Lake on New Year’s Day.

Julie Graham of 9 Lakes of East Tennessee (right) and Lauren Hurdle of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (left) present Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s Kathleen Gibi (middle) with a proceeds check from the 1st Annual Polar Plunge held at Cherokee Lake on New Year’s Day.

Julie Graham, Executive Director for the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council (branded as 9 Lakes of East Tennessee) presented a check to Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful at a local tourism meeting held at White Pine City Hall on Friday, Feb. 1. The donation comes from the proceeds of the organization’s 1st Annual Polar Plunge, which was held on New Year’s Day at the Cherokee Lake Recreation Area.

Organizing partners for the event included Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council (METTC), Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (JCCC), Cherokee Lake Realty, and Cherokee Lake Users Association (CLUA).

“This was a fun way for people to get out and enjoy Cherokee Lake at the start of the year while also highlighting the many benefits of the Tennessee River,” said Graham. “We thank all sponsors and event organizers, especially Lauren Hurdle (Tourism Development Coordinator for JCCC).”

A little post-plunge joy!

A little post-plunge joy!

More than 200 people attended the event, including six mayors from the region:

  • Mayor Mark Potts, Jefferson County

  • Mayor Beau Tucker, City of New Market

  • Mayor Terry Wolfe, Town of Bean Station

  • Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Knox County

  • Mayor Mike Byrd, Grainger County

  • Mayor Mitch Cain, Jefferson City

“We wanted to highlight and benefit Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful because it’s a great organization that’s tying together all of our local waterway efforts,” said Graham. “The attendance of six mayors is a testament to the river’s reach in East Tennessee.”

The mayors served as the judging panel for the Parade of Penguins, which had some interesting costume entries, including Elvis, men donning tutus, and a group of elves. The winning entry went home with a new kayak provided by Jefferson City Wal-Mart.

“We’re grateful to Julie for her passion for the river, for the efforts of the event organizers, and for this donation that will be used to raise awareness around keeping the Tennessee River healthy and beautiful,” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful. “Six mayors attended this event because they understand the impact our river has on our economy, tourism, and culture.”


Graham currently serves as President of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful’s Board of Directors, and plans are underway to continue the Polar Plunge next year at Cherokee Lake.

Sponsors included Bush Beans, Tennova, Citizen Tribune, Mossy Creek Foundation, Greenlee Marina, Honda Marine, Smarketing, Jefferson County Post, Standard Banner, Off the Hook, First People’s Bank, Hibbert Sports, Walmart, Bucks and Bass, and TVA Credit Union.

Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council is a 16-county not-for-profit that serves to promote the assets of the region to build local community and economic opportunities through tourism. Branded as the 9 Lakes of East Tennessee, they partner with businesses and tourism agencies to serve 16 counties in the region.

Contact: Julie Graham, Executive Director

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river. The non-profit’s mission is to educate and inspire people to take action to create a clean, healthy, beautiful TN River. They aim to rally communities along the river to preserve, improve and protect the river for generations to come.

Contact: Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director

3/3: As Oceanic Trash Islands Grow, What You Can Do from the Tennessee Valley

We’ve spent the last two installments of this blog series understanding the severity of litter—especially plastics—and how far it can go.

Here are six ways that you can help with reducing some of the biggest plastic culprits that Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is finding along the river valley.



Plastic bottles are projected to take up to 450 to 1,000 years to break down and Styrofoam cups can take anywhere from 50 to 500 years. Any time you opt against the use of a throwaway bottle or cup, that’s one less item that can contribute to the floating trash islands. After a length of time, similar conditions that bust up shells into microscopic pieces would bust up the bottles and cups for aquatic animals to ingest. Reusable cups, bottles, and tumblers help to reduce the frequency of this outcome.

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Plastic grocery bags are some of the most common items we find littered along the waterways. Though they take 10 to 100 years to break down, plastic bags are used in masses on a daily basis. Because of their light-weight nature, they are easily blown from garbage cans or trucks, eventually winding up in—you guessed it—our waterways.

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Many have seen the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw lodged in its nostril. (If you haven’t, check it out: https://bit.ly/2DmBHHi) If placed end to end, the amount of straws used in the U.S. in one day alone could circle the planet 2.5 times. For those who simply must use straws, there are metal straws that can be purchased from your local grocery store for $6-$10. Or, try reusing those larger plastic straws from souvenir cups.



Similar to straws, plastic cutlery is a one-time use item with minimal weight that makes it a good candidate for long-distance travel on our waterways. When ordering takeout, consider declining cutlery and using your silverware at home. There are also plenty of options for reusable cutlery sets that you can keep with you for dining out. Some of these options come in nice little cases. Some are packaged as a pocket knife of cutlery. These items make excellent stocking stuffers or wedding giveaways (also serving a dual purpose as giveaways/utensils for the wedding meals).

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Throwaway sandwich bags have become a staple of the American packed lunch. They’re also a common find during river cleanups! You’ll help your wallet and reduce your chances of contributing to litter that’s blown from landfills, trash cans, or garbage trucks and into our water system. It’s also a great opportunity to teach the kids about reducing your household’s waste impact. Next time you pack your food to go, consider using glass or plastic reusable storage containers!

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While reducing waste is the best way to prevent litter in our waterways, recycling is still a great option to make a difference! If you haven’t already, sign up for your garbage collector’s recycling program. It’s estimated that 80 percent of plastic is not recycled each year.

It’s going to take time for us to get this plastic crisis under control, but it’s in your power to start making a difference today. Any of these options are a good start!

We encourage you to begin eliminating those brief purpose, long-term presence items from your day-to-day routine. Just don’t try to make all of these changes at once. Be sure to ease into it with one item at a time so that it isn’t too overwhelming.

It’s a decision that will continue to make a positive impact on our planet for (450 to 1,000) years to come!

Keeping our waterways healthy and beautiful will do the same for our oceans. To find out how you can help to remove the plastics already in our waterways, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org.

Read the previous installments of this blog series, “As Oceanic Trash Islands Rise, What You Can Do from the Tennessee River Valley”:

1/1 - published on 1.23.19

1/2 - published on 1.24.19

Part 2/3: As Oceanic Trash Islands Grow, What You Can Do from the Tennessee River Valley

Over the years in our increasingly hurried lives, we’ve developed the habit of using throw-away items like sandwich bags, plastic cutlery, straws, and fast food cups.


“Brief purpose, long-term presence items”

In the solid waste industry, these items are called “single-use items.” It’s a label way too benign for their effect. We should call them what they really are: Brief purpose, long-term presence items.

For example, scientists estimate that plastic straws will take up to 450 years to break down.

Life of a Straw.png

Now, stop and think about the amount of time you personally use a “disposable” straw. Is it three hours? Five? Let’s go so far as to say that you use it through one full waking day. Is your 12 hours with that straw worth its estimated 3,942,000-hour lifetime on earth? (Don’t forget, that’s just an estimate because straws haven’t been around long enough for us to actually watch them break down.)

We’ve all participated in today’s throw-away culture. It was an innocent societal step toward what seemed to solve our shrinking schedules. After all, asbestos was once a great solution to roofing ailments.

Is your 12 hours with that straw worth its estimated 3,942,000-hour lifetime on earth?

We now know that our plastic throwaway companions are causing vast environmental consequences, and those consequences are about to rear their heads.

A dead fish washed up alongside litter on Gulf Coast Beach.

A dead fish washed up alongside litter on Gulf Coast Beach.

Experts are sounding the alarm because fish have been found to be ingesting tiny bits of plastic. A study was recently released that found that 73 percent of deep-sea fish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean had ingested plastic.

In 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened the Gulf of Mexico to companies for aquaculture purposes in the hope of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign fish imports.

We are about to be literally eating our problem—if we’re not already!

In the last installment of this blog series, we’ll explore some options on how you can personally stop plastic from entering your water (and food) systems. Click below to read the final installment of this blog series:

As Oceanic Trash Islands Grow, What You Can Do from the Tennessee River Valley
Part 1/3 (Released on 1.24.19) | Part 3/3 (Released on 1.25.19) —->

Part 1/3: As Oceanic Trash Islands Grow, What You Can Do from the Tennessee River Valley

“Would you like that in a bag?”: A great blue heron catches a fish wrapped in plastic.

“Would you like that in a bag?”: A great blue heron catches a fish wrapped in plastic.

Believe it or not, litter from any location along the Tennessee River—even as far inland as Knoxville, Tennessee—can make it to the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s true! In fact, Knoxville is considered an international port because of its navigability to the Gulf. 


Litter Flow Graphic.png

As you read this, additional litter is flowing toward an Atlantic Ocean floating trash island that’s long enough to cover the distance between Cuba and Virginia. In the Pacific, there’s another one between Hawaii and California’s coast that’s twice the size of Texas!

While conservation groups are working worldwide to remove the debris forming these floating wastelands, we’re going to have to change our culture in order to stop their growth once and for all.

If you live in any city along the Tennessee River, you have the power to help!  Click HERE to read Part 2 of this three-part blog series!

Christmas Break Activity: Explore Revealed Shorelines and Remove Litter on Your Own!

Low river levels in the winter provide a great cleanup opportunity—a fun way to get out on Christmas break!

Low river levels in the winter provide a great cleanup opportunity—a fun way to get out on Christmas break!

Are the kids getting restless towards the end of Christmas break? Looking for an active, fun, educational activity to do before getting back into the routine?

We’ve got the perfect solution for you! 

It’s winter, so water levels of our river, lakes, and creeks are at their lowest. This is the perfect chance to take the kids out in nature and teach them how to be good stewards of our waterways by collecting litter from public park shorelines.

There’s nothing like an adventure of roaming the unveiled riverbeds where water is clearly supposed to be! Picking up litter along the way just adds more merit to your experience.


Be sure to bring boots or waders (closed toe shoes at the very least) that you won’t mind getting muddy. It’s also important to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Here’s a quick list for a litter collection kit with which you can equip your group to make the most impact:

  • Litter grabbers

  • Work gloves

  • Garbage bags (be sure to differentiate trash vs. recycling)

  • Hand sanitizer (for when you’re finished)

Please be sure to share with us photos from your litter cleanup adventure, including where you explored as well as your litter loot totals! We’ll share them on social media to inspire others.

If your group has so much fun that you want to do it again, consider participating in our Adopt a River Mile program. It’s free, and we will provide cleanup supplies. We’ll even provide a free metal sign crediting your group for the river mile’s cleanly improvements!

Click HERE to read more about our Adopt a River Mile program and sign up today!

KTNRB Board Announces New Executive Director

Kathleen Gibi

Kathleen Gibi

The Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Board of Directors is pleased to announce Kathleen Gibi, who has long served as Public Affairs Specialist for the City of Knoxville, Tennessee, as its new Executive Director.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to solely focus on a river. The non-profit has already rallied 703 volunteers to remove 55,655 pounds of trash from the river in its first three years, hosting cleanups in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi. 

“Protecting the beauty of our river doesn't happen by accident—regional and local action are key to conserving the Tennessee River waterways,” said Julie Graham, Board President and Executive Director of the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council. “KTNRB serves as the regional entity to connect the local efforts.”

The KTNRB non-profit started shortly after Keep Tennessee Beautiful and the Tennessee Valley Authority sponsored Living Lands & Waters' Tennessee River Tour in 2015, which Gibi helped to conceptualize and implement. The tour stopped along six cities within three states as the Living Lands and Waters barge showcased trash removed from river cleanups along the way.

KTNB and TVA wanted to continue the work of Living Lands & Waters and created Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, working in communities along the river’s 652-mile stretch to preserve, improve, and protect the river for generations to come. 

Living Lands & Waters barge docked at Volunteer Landing in Knoxville, Tennessee during the 2015 Tennessee River Tour.

“We were all inspired by the collaborative energy that we experienced through the Tennessee River Tour, and we wanted to make sure to keep the momentum going,” said Missy Marshall, Executive Director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful. “Our team at Keep Tennessee Beautiful is eager to continue increasing our efforts together with our strong partners as we work to protect and beautify our river.”

Volunteers at a KTNRB cleanup held in October 2018.

Volunteers at a KTNRB cleanup held in October 2018.

Gibi is following the organization’s original Executive Director, Laura Howard, who has led KTNRB since its inception and currently serves as Environment Health & Safety Manager/Recycling Coordinator at Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. Howard will continue to serve on the KTNRB Board of Directors.

Laura Howard (left) and volunteer Lucretia Embry show off soccer ball treasures found in a KTNRB cleanup..

Laura Howard (left) and volunteer Lucretia Embry show off soccer ball treasures found in a KTNRB cleanup..

Gibi has served as Public Affairs Specialist at the City of Knoxville since 2004, first working in the Parks and Recreation Department under then Mayor (now Tennessee Governor) Bill Haslam and then moving to the Communications Department under Mayor Madeline Rogero. 

In 2015, the National League of Cities named Gibi as its Most Dedicated Staff Award recipient, a distinction she earned for her local collaborative efforts for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative (in which Knoxville and Knox County were ranked no. 1 in the nation). 

In her role with City of Knoxville Communications, Gibi has worked on communications for the Public Works Department, which included Parks and Recreation, Engineering, Public Service, Fleet Services, and Plans Review and Inspections. In Knoxville, she is responsible for initiating and organizing programs such as the Tennessee River Tour, the annual Father’s Day Fishing Event, the CrossKnox Race, and Neighborhoods to Nature.

“We owe so much to the Tennessee River—it’s a foundation for our economy, our health, and our culture,” Gibi said. “I’m looking forward to KTNRB collaborating with many regional partners along the Tennessee River in a continued effort to preserve its beauty and worth.”

KTNRB currently holds four annual river cleanups with assistance from Living Lands & Waters. The organization also coordinates an Adopt-a-River-Mile program.

For more information, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org

Kathleen Gibi
865.386.3926 (cell)
Twitter: @TNRiverBeautiful