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Unsung Heroes: Keep Kingsport Beautiful's Trashbusters help keep community litter-free

Katherine Scoggins • Apr 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

They’re practically synonymous with City of Kingsport events. Tireless behind-the-scenes volunteers of all ages, out in all kinds of weather, day or night, doing good in the community. They are Keep Kingsport Beautiful’s Trashbusters.

Approximately 100 or more strong, this group of volunteers keeps a watchful eye out for trash and litter, along with emptying and replacing bags in hundreds of brightly-decorated trash barrels (waste receptacles). While this group, in their "official" Trashbuster T-shirts, has some claim to fame, Robin Cleary, Director of Keep Kingsport Beautiful, stresses that taking care of our planet and keeping our community litter-free is something everyone can do.

With several KKB events just weeks away, Cleary has begun recruiting groups, families and individuals, and is working to get the word out for the spring and summer events. Kingsport’s city-wide CPR campaign (Clean up, Put up, Recycle) will run April 8-19 and May 11 is the Downtown Kingsport Clean Up.

"We will kick off at 8 a.m. on April 20 with the Earth Day Celebration, which is a new event for us," says Cleary. "Activities will be held in the parking area behind PetSmart and will include our annual Greenbelt Clean-Up, which will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., and the wrap-up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which includes a variety of fun and educational family activities centered around Earth Day, including the launch of the new Stormy App and ‘Stormy,’ the mascot from the City of Kingsport’s Storm Water Utility program. Representatives from Bays Mountain will also be on hand, and there will be tours of the Green Belt’s Birding Trail."

Activities such as these go a long way in teaching children the importance of taking care of the environment, explains Cleary. Another activity, which will take place on Tuesday, July 9, in preparation for Fun Fest, is KKB’s very popular Trash Barrel Paint-In, which also involves children and youth.

"Children love to paint and decorate the trash barrels," says Cleary. "This is an activity that families can do together and begin a conversation about the importance of taking care of our world, picking up trash and litter, keeping stream and waterways clean - a conversation that will hopefully resonate for years."

This year’s Trash Barrel Paint-In is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9. There is a $5 registration fee and while participants are furnished with one can of spray paint (while supplies last), they do need to bring their own paint and materials. Winning barrel designs will be selected in a range of age categories.

Trashbusters are busiest in the summer months during Fun Fest events, like Mardi Gras, Rhythm in Riverview, the Sunset Concert Series, Taste of Tri-Cities, and Breakast With the Balloons, though they also assist with activities at other times of the year, such as the Santa Train.

Because of their commitment and hard work, Trashbusters are part of the reason for the pristine expanses of grass, sidewalks and parking lots. Perhaps one of the most remarkable accomplishments of this group is the obvious lack of litter on venue sites.

Cleary believes she understands the phenomenon: "This group has been in existence for 29 years. As visible as they are in their Trashbuster T-shirts, the trash barrels are even more noticeable. When you look around at one of the events, you are struck by the number and proximity of the trash receptacles... pretty much everywhere you look there are trash barrels. This is no coincidence; having trash barrels within just feet of each other ensures that there is almost no way a person could be more than a few feet away from a place to throw away their trash. Over the years, Kingsport residents have gotten into the habit of finding a barrel and depositing their trash in it."

Cleary is quick to point out that none of this would be possible without the support of a very important city department.

"The Kingsport City Works Department crews are always there to pick up trash almost as soon as it’s bagged. Sporting their Trashbuster T-shirts, they are an official part of the Trashbuster teams, too. One of the most amazing things to see is the concert or event venue at the end of the night, then to see it first thing in the morning - it is spotless! It is just amazing how quickly and efficiently these teams work together."

Lorrie Cooper, Chairman of the 2013 Fun Fest, sums it up best: "The partnership between KKB and Fun Fest is very important to the continued success of our festival. The Trashbusters’ participation in the many Fun Fest events, including the Trash Barrel Paint-In and litter free concerts, is invaluable and very much appreciated by both organizations. Fun Fest supports and applauds the Trashbuster program because it not only showcases Kingsport’s great volunteer spirit, it also provides a family-friendly opportunity to promote a cleaner, greener, healthier environment for our city."

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