National River Cleanup® Year in Review: 5 Ws of 2011

Last year American Rivers celebrated the 20th Anniversary of National River Cleanup.  The 5 Ws below highlight the remarkable achievements of 2011:  

Who: 85,000 cleanup organizers, volunteers, employees, students and fellow river-lovers all over the country teamed up to restore waterways.

What: Collected over 3 million pounds of trash from 37,500 river miles.  That is equal to approximately 166 garbage truck loads of litter.

Where: 370+ cleanups from coast to coast in 46 states.

When: 2011 with over 19,000 hours of cleaning.  That is the equivalent of over 2 years spent cleaning rivers in 2011 alone.  Wow!

Why: In the words of a few of our 2011 cleanup organizers:

“The river cleanup got lots of people in our community talking about the river and why we should take better care of it.”               
                    Dan Faust of Illinois
                    First Annual Vermilion River Cleanup

“The Iowa River holds a lot of secrets, as those who spend time on the river know. While most are good ones, for years, she’s been hiding some darker mysteries.  On October 9th, the river finally gave up some of the secrets she’d buried: 17 tons of trash that was yanked, dragged, and wrenched loose from the river, sandbars, and riverbanks by a team of 53 volunteers with a deep-rooted respect and appreciation for Iowa’s waterways or an interest in protecting Iowa’s natural resources.”
                    Carol Sweeting of Iowa
                    Iowa River Cleanup 2011

“The oil spill on the Kalamazoo River will be known as the largest inland freshwater oil spill in the history of the United States. The portions of the Kalamazoo River that were impacted by the oil spill flows through the cities of Marshall and Battle Creek, both communities have held River Cleanup events for 10+ years.”
                    Cheryl Vosburg of Michigan
                    Marshall River Clean Up & Conservation Day

How:  Your hard work and the support of our sponsors.  This program is more successful than ever, thanks to committed organizers and the generosity of our sponsors and donors who provide financial support and volunteer time.

As I take a moment and pause to reflect on 2011, it is remarkable to see the progress we have made together.  What began initially as a River Cleanup Day transitioned into a River Cleanup Week and has ultimately transformed into the current national campaign.  Measuring success in numbers, 2011 was by far the most successful year in National River Cleanup history.  But we all know it is about more than just analyzing the statistics. 

The success of this program is also measured in dedication and the love of what connects us – rivers.  With this in mind, I only take a moment to reflect on the successes of 2011 because there are many rivers to be cleaned in 2012! Find a cleanup near you or register your own cleanup today.