KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The group behind a recycling project at Dollywood has earned a second award for its efforts.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTnRB) was recently awarded the Keep America Beautiful® 2023 National Innovation Award for its Cigarette Litter Prevention project at Dollywood. Winners were announced on Feb. 12 during the Keep America Beautiful National Conference in San Diego. According to KTnRB, the award honors affiliates that created innovative programs to advance the mission of Keep America Beautiful.

“Congratulations to the KAB affiliates, state agencies and individuals chosen as our 2023 award recipients. Your efforts serve as a testament to leadership and the innovation necessary to create cleaner, greener, and more beautiful communities, revitalizing a sense of pride within communities across the country,” said Jennifer Lawson, President and CEO of Keep America Beautiful.

According to KTnRB, the program has led to 500,000 cigarette butts being recycled from Dollywood since 2021. In addition, Dollywood is the first theme park in the world to recycle the plastic found in every cigarette butt collected on its property. The park is also the largest recycler in KTNRB’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.

“Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is proud to work with Dollywood on a project that fosters a non-traditional approach to recycling as well as protecting our waterways,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTnRB Executive Director. “Dollywood continues to immerse its efforts in giving back to the community and we’re so grateful to their staff as well as our collaborating partners who have made this trailblazing initiative possible.”

The program placed 26 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles throughout the park through a collaboration of grants and sponsorships from Keep America Beautiful, Keep Tennessee Beautiful, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the American Eagle Foundation.

Staff regularly empty the cigarette butts until full boxes are ready to be sent off for recycling. TerraCycle covers the cost of shipping to their New Jersey facility so that the plastic microfibers in the cigarette filters can be recycled into outdoor plastic furniture. Two park benches at Dollywood were made from recycled cigarette plastic.

This is the project’s second award. In August 2023, the Tennessee Recycling Coalition named KTnRB ‘Nonprofit Recycler of the Year’ for the program.

Overall, KTNRB has placed 800 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles at marinas, campgrounds, and tourism sites across the Tennessee River watershed.

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