Another successful annual Great American Cleanup

Three million volunteers across the United States contributed their time and effort this year during the annual Great American Cleanup.

Volunteers created over 48,000 gardens, xeriscapes and green spaces and removed over 86 million pounds of litter and debris from America’s landscape. Additionally, 15,200 junk cars were removed and the number of illegal dumpsites that were cleaned up nearly doubled from the previous year to 6,500. Great American Cleanup events improved over 144,000 miles of roadway (nearly 6 times the circumference of the earth), 91,000 acres of parks and public lands, and 6,000 miles of hiking, biking and nature trails.

Students celebrate their success in the “Return the Warmth” school PET recycling program in Lake Wales, Florida.

Over 30,000 local events were organized throughout the United States, involving 17,000 communities and logging a combined time commitment of over 6.7 million hours. “It is truly amazing how much litter you can pick up and how much natural beauty you can create given that many hours,” noted Keep America Beautiful senior vice president and Great American Cleanup managing director Gail Cunningham.

The mission of the Great American Cleanup not only focuses on litter removal, but educating communities about the importance of keeping public spaces clean and cared for. This year 8,500 educational workshops were conducted with a combined attendance of over 600,000 participants. “Every year the number of volunteers participating in the Great American Cleanup increases, and we believe that is a direct result of our ongoing outreach and education about the importance of a cleaner and greener America,” added Cunningham.

The importance of recycling is top-of-mind for Americans, and the numbers behind the volunteers’ efforts support that trend with over 189 million plastic (PET) bottles reclaimed, 10.2 million pounds of aluminum and steel recovered, 5.3 million pounds of electronics collected for recycling, and 37 million pounds of newspaper recycled. Beautification efforts have increased significantly with over 100,000 trees planted. In addition to these accomplishments, a record 37,000 graffiti sites have been cleaned up, the highest number ever recorded.

Other highlights included:

•7,000 miles of rivers, lakes and shorelines cleaned;

•2,700 acres of wetlands cleaned and improved;

•3,000 playgrounds and community recreation areas were constructed or restored.

National sponsors of the Great American Cleanup were: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; The Dow Chemical Company; Firestone Complete Auto Care and Tires Plus; GLAD ForceFlex Trash Bags; Pepsi-Cola Company; Sam’s Club; The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company; Sprint Foundation; Troy-Bilt Lawn and Garden Equipment; Waste Management, Inc.; Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company; and Educational Partners: ReCellular, Inc. and the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

For the sixth consecutive year, President George W. Bush served as honorary chair of the Great American Cleanup, with Laura Bush joining him as honorary chair for the fourth consecutive year.