Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful volunteers work to keep trash off the roads, out of water

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:14 PM CDT
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NORTH ALABAMA, (WAFF) - The next time you throw that plastic bottle out of your vehicle or dump junk on the side of the road - think about it.

It is not cheap to clean up all that litter.

You see it on the sides of the roads, floating in the water, and scattered everywhere. Litter. Trash. Junk. Whatever you want to call it - it’s an eyesore.

Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful knows a thing or two about rubbish.

“We are the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river. and we host river cleanups across the Tennessee River watershed.”

The state’s cost to clean up roadside litter totals more than $6 million. Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful relies on volunteer cleanups along the 652-mile river and its tributaries. Gibi says you wouldn’t believe what they’ve bagged up just from people being careless.

“You have to tell yourself, gosh this could have been handled much more easily if it had been properly disposed of. I’d say that most of our volunteers walk away thinking it’s worse. You might be on the river every week and think it looks pristine and it does from a fiberglass boat’s perspective. Once we get back into the coves where the flooding has pushed everything back people walk away saying their eyes have been opened.”

Gibi supplied photos showing just how much trash is pulled from along the Tennessee River. To date, Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful has removed more than 223,000 pounds of trash since 2016. And some 56,000 pounds of trash just this year alone. That includes garbage collected from Wilson and Wheeler Lakes - right here in north Alabama.

“Most of that weight is bags of trash and tires and barge line. lots and lots and lots of bags of trash.”

This is an expense Gibi says could be cut if people were just more responsible.

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