PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Visitors to Dollywood can sit on benches made from the plastic found in cigarette butts.
Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful gifted Dollywood the two benches as a way to say thank you for the park’s efforts in stopping cigarette litter. In 2021, Dollywood partnered with the river cleanup nonprofit for their cigarette litter prevention project. KTNRB gave Dollywood with 26 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles through to grants and sponsorships from Keep America Beautiful, Keep Tennessee Beautiful, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the American Eagle Foundation.
According to KTNRB, 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 with more than 250,000 of the 275,000 cigarette butts collected coming from Dollywood.
“This is a pioneering step that Dollywood is taking with this project—one that sets an example that our waterways are worth protecting and one that is the largest recycling impact of its kind within the seven-state Tennessee River watershed,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director. “We’re grateful to all of the partners who have made this project possible.”
The benches gifted to Dollywood were made from tightly compressed plastic that came from used cigarette butts. The benches were made by TerraCycle, a company that uses cigarette plastic to make outdoor furniture. The benches have been placed near Dollywood’s River Rampage water ride.
The receptacles at Dollywood can be found in the park’s smoking areas and 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. KTNRB can track how many cigarette butts have been processed through TerraCycle’s website once they go through the recycling facility.
“Dollywood has been recognized as one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world due, in part, to the beauty of East Tennessee,” said Carol Agee, Dollywood Sr. Manager of Community Affairs and Strategic Alliances. “It is vital for us to maintain this beauty by caring for our natural surroundings. Through our partnership with KTNRB, we are able to take hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts and remove them from the waste stream.”
Overall, 800 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles have been placed in all seven states of the Tennessee River watershed, with partners at marinas, campgrounds and businesses maintaining them. 109 cigarette receptacles were given to Tennessee’s state parks.
“We’re grateful to have such a leader within our watershed and hope their example inspires others to follow,” said Gibi. “We could think of no greater theme park to champion such an effort than Dollywood, who has so successfully married the theme park experience with the stunning setting of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Pigeon River, demonstrating to park visitors each year that our natural assets are both cultural and economic treasures,” said Gibi.
KTNRB shared that several studies have found that cigarette butts in water hold enough toxins to kill aquatic life within two gallons of the surrounding water. In 2019, CNN reported cigarette filters were the No. 1 plastic pollutant in the world.