Cash Daniels, 11, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a fifth-grader at Homelife Academy, has organized cleanup outings that have removed more than 11,000 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River, recycled over 1,000 pounds of aluminum cans to raise money for river conservation, and installed fishing-line recycling receptacles along the river. Since he was very young, Cash has been fascinated by the marine life in his local river. “I heard a lot of people talking about cleaning the ocean, but I didn’t know our American rivers were so bad,” said Cash. “I knew I had to make a difference and save the Tennessee River.”
He talked his parents into picking up trash along the river with him one day, but there was so much that Cash began planning additional cleanups. He appealed for volunteers by contacting local news media and creating an Instagram page. He then secured a donation of buckets and gloves from a hardwood store so his volunteers – typically 20 to 25 for each cleanup event – didn’t need to use plastic bags that would end up in landfills. Cash also runs a recycling program with local businesses to keep aluminum cans out of landfills and support river conservation, and is working with state agencies to place monofilament receptacles along the river so discarded fishing line doesn’t end up entangling fish. In addition, Cash wrote a children’s book about river pollution, which he has read to kids at various schools to “share how important our planet is,” he said.