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

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful was named ‘2023 Nonprofit Recycler of the Year’ by the Tennessee Recycling Coalition for its cigarette litter prevention partnership with Dollywood. For the project, KTNRB provided Dollywood with 26 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles.

“We’re so proud of this honor, more than anything because of the commitment from Dollywood and the other supporting partners who worked to ensure that this trailblazing collaboration would protect the Tennessee River watershed from the harmful effects of cigarette litter,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director. “Taking the effort to the next step of recycling the plastic from otherwise discarded cigarette waste makes it all the more impactful and is yet the latest example of Dollywood’s reputation of working toward the greater good.”

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 so that the plastic microfibers in the cigarette filters can be recycled into outdoor plastic furniture. In fact, two park benches at Dollywood were made from recycled cigarette plastic.

According to KTNRB, the program has led to 350,000 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.

Overall, KTNRB has placed 800 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles at marinas, campgrounds, and tourism sites in all seven states of the Tennessee River watershed.