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Updated: Jan 9, 2020

Litter Sweep & Trash Bowl Add 6,300 Pounds of Litter to Keep Rutherford County Beautiful 2019 Collection Tally and a Big Congratulations to the 2019 Champions Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy

Rutherford County, NC - October 22, 2019: As an expansion of the Keep Rutherford County Beautiful (Keep RC Beautiful) organization’s mission to educate and motivate citizens to keep Rutherford County litter-free, individuals, teams and high schools rallied last week for both a Rutherford County Community-Wide Litter Sweep and the Rutherford County Trash Bowl that resulted in a combined litter collection of 6,300 pounds of trash from across Rutherford County. The week-long collection brings the 2019 annual tally of litter removed from Rutherford County to 26,000 pounds, which equates to more than 13 tons! 

The Rutherford County Community-Wide Litter Sweep has been taking place for more than three years and has seen huge growth in participation and trash collected year to year.  Sponsored by Keep RC Beautiful, last week, 13 community teams were formed with over 100 Rutherford County citizens. Together these teams collected more than 160 bags of trash weighing more than 2,300 pounds. The teams were comprised of organizations and individuals who were willing to get outside and get the job done, piling up the plastic bags for NCDOT pickup, and many of them keeping gloves on hand for last-minute litter sightings. As successful as the individual and organization-led efforts were, they were no match for the students and educators that simultaneously competed in the first annual Rutherford County Trash Bowl, in which high school students, faculty, staff and families from Rutherford County high schools collected more than 4,000 pounds of litter was removed from parks and roadsides! Chase High, East Rutherford High, Lake Lure Classical Academy, R-S Central High, and Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy competed head to head for the honor of being the school with the most trash collected and awarded the Trash Bowl trophy for their students to enjoy for the year. Students, faculty, staff, and families all signed on to eagerly support the competitive beautification of the county.

Keep RC Beautiful marketing committee members Jenna Bailey, Clark Poole, Taylor Hardin and Stephanie Rzonca developed the idea for the high school Trash Bowl at the conclusion of the Spring Litter Sweep.  Jenna Bailey, Partner of Artifacturing LLC, explained the inspiration for the event: “We had such an overwhelming number of participants in the Spring Litter Sweep, we wanted to develop an initiative focused on our young adults for fall. A friendly competition rose to be the best way to engage them into the educational experience of cleaning up after careless people while showing pride in their district.”

Most of the schools identified a Trash Bowl Coordinator, and then strategized the best way to engage students in the effort. One school asked their cross country team to identify prime pick up locations while running, and recruited the environmental club to do the actual hauling of the litter.  Another found support in partnering with their corresponding middle school, and others capitalized on class-time clean ups.

The Keep RC Beautiful mascot, Roxi the Raccoon, provided a scavenger hunt for children in the past, but the Trash Bowl took the idea of a “treasure hunt” to a whole new level. First year teacher Ms. Chaleise Burley, of Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, found students to be enthusiastic about scavenging for litter. “At first they acted like it was a strange request to pick up trash at various locations near the school, but it didn’t take long before they were racing back to show me what they’d found. Before we knew it, they were hauling discarded mattresses and couches to the roadsides for pickup, and I was having to discourage them from some of the unsafe spaces they were begging to gather trash from.”

Lake Lure Classical Academy took second place in the inaugural Trash Bowl.

Photo credit: Clint Calhoun

On Tuesday, members of the Keep RC Beautiful Committee presented Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy (TJCA) with the 2019 Trash Bowl Trophy and officially name them the Trash Bowl Champions! TJCA filled two dumpsters along with large debris collected by NCDOT, and ultimately collected the majority of the litter, totaling 2,714 pounds! In second place, with 840 pounds of trash and a community of support, was Lake Lure Classical Academy. East Rutherford took third place, with R-S Central in fourth and Chase finishing in fifth. 

Clark Poole, Executive Director for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, said the fall clean up event “was a huge success and we are cognizant that TJCA will defend their title with gumption in 2020. A heartfelt thanks to all our young adults, parents and educators that participated. You are all great examples for your peers, and I am excited to see where this leads next fall.”

While the competition was fun, the community collaboration was also a significant “win” for the County. Republic Waste Services kindly donated the dumpsters and manpower to get them placed and picked up on site at the schools.  Roxi the Racoon visited high school football games to raise awareness and cheer alongside each team’s mascots and cheerleaders. Night Owl Iron Works constructed the Trash Bowl Trophy while Tri-City Laser provided the base and plaques. Rutherford Waste Management visited all sites to confirm that the trash was indeed roadside trash and collected the ballot boxes made available by the Board of Elections. Salem United Methodist Church parked their pick up truck on East Rutherford Middle School’s campus to transport bags to the high school. The school leadership was also instrumental in allowing such an event to occur.  Thank you to all supporters and contributors of the Keep RC Beautiful initiatives! 

Brad White, High School Principal of Lake Lure Classical Academy said, “It was a great community event and we were glad to get the students involved. We had over 70 high school students picking up trash on Wednesday before our break. The Rutherford County Police Department was a huge help, as well.”

Keep RC Beautiful continues to respond to the call of County Commissioners to beautify the county with a focus on litter sweeps, education, and marketing. Save the date for the next Community-Wide Spring Litter Sweep taking place on April 18th through April 26th, 2020. Fall 2020 Trash Bowl dates will be released in spring.

Participants for the 2019 Fall Litter Sweep include: Town of Forest City including Amy Bridges, Janet Mason, Steve Holland, Sherri Holland, Mr. Mosteller, Barry Spurlin, Shannon; Rutherford Outdoor Coalition including Dana  Bradley, Tim Lovelace, Donald Blanton, Theresa Johnson, Callia Johnson, Jason Smoak, Terry Henderson (troop 129), Fred Matthews, Joe Smathers, Tyler Bryan (troop 129), Ryan Smith (troop 129), Alex Beavers (troop 129), Carlie Richardson, Maria Richardson, Sam Ryley, Peter Ryley, Hunter Hefner (troop 129) Beckett Webber (troop 129), Andrew Pope (troop 129), Kylie Dobbins, Amelia Resendeiz, Abigail Hutchins, Aa’Lynna Bridges, Harley Sheehan, Sarah Kick, Kensley Gonzales, Leiola Yelton, Choloe Hannon, Lilly Yelton; Town of Spindale including Scott Webber, Mara H, Eric Reid, John Robert, Lisa Webber, Benny P, Amber Christopher, Eddie Searcy; Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority including Don Cason, Taylor Hardin, Karen Tegen, Robi Robinson, Emily Ostertag; Rutherford Police Department including Clint Ingle, Tyler Dills, Rick Gilbert, Brian Martin, Joey Holland, Seth Watkins, Kevin Lovelace; 2nd Baptist Church including Chad Dillard, Keith Stephenson, Shannon Dillard, Connie Dalziel, Harper Dillard, Laynil Dillard, Cindy McDaniel, Todd McDaniel, Luke McDaniel, Roger Wilkerson; George and Mariam Moyer, Lisa Garrett, Jeff Garrett, Bud Oates, Karl Trumpler, Walter Vosbaugh, Rick Reed, Debbie Rennie, Janis Rosebaum, Joey Buchanan, Mike Scruggs, Doug Sheets, Kay Sheets, Liz Cealilla, Don Lesher, Sally Lesher; Town of Rutherfordton’s Stephanie Rzonca; Salem United Methodist Church including Rev. Samuel Burleson, Erin Burleson, Andrew Burleson, Alayna Hastings, Rebecca Hastings; Jenna Bailey, Alexis Bailey, Teagan Bailey; Leah Buckley, Carly Kauffman, Shannon Buckley, Gwen Logan, Jeny Keeter, Shawn Keeter, Albert Moore, Don Campbell; Barbara Meliski and friends; Doug Barrick, and Leslie Brandle. 

To learn more, visit the Facebook page @KeepRCNCBeautiful, the website or email

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Updated: Dec 11, 2019

You may have heard recycling is in trouble, but it is actually changing for the better. Before 2018, China was the convenient outlet for unsorted, low value classes of recyclables that domestic markets did not accept. Last January, China restricted the amount of lower quality recyclables that the country would import. Chinese markets would no longer accept foreign bales of unprocessed plastics and mixed paper, and any processed paper and plastic bales must not exceed 0.5 percent contamination.

This policy, known as the National Sword, has not ruined recycling in America. It has illuminated some problems in the industry that are now being addressed: high contamination rates and an unsustainable reliance on foreign recycling markets. Material recovery facilities (MRFs), which sort out different categories of recyclables into bales, are now focusing on improving material quality and selling recyclables in America. MRFs have been swamped with high contamination, or non-recyclables, in the recycling mix. The more contaminants MRFs need to comb out, the costlier their operations. The National Sword policy coupled with high contamination rates caused reduced revenue from material sales and increased costs from contamination management.

Single-stream recycling, in which residential recyclables are collected together, has been an effective tool in boosting participation and recovered tonnage. However, MRFs are not designed to separate trash from recyclable materials. They are designed to separate recyclables into commodities, and they function best when they only handle quality recyclable materials that have domestic buyers. Contamination worsens when well-meaning residents put non-recyclable items in their recycling cart (wish-cycling) because they were not provided clear education.

Single-stream recycling when paired with direct, consistent and sustained education is the most effective way to recover the most recyclable material and avoid contamination.

Despite the challenges, the United States and North Carolina, in particular, have strong domestic recycling markets for quality material. Last year, North Carolina residents recycled more than 1.5 million tons of material. Material processors, manufacturers and paper mills use thousands of tons of recovered glass, aluminum, steel, paper and plastic every day. North Carolina recyclers are dependent on residential collection programs to supply the material needed to manufacture products and support the 16,300 private sector jobs in the state’s 674 recycling businesses.

The state of NC is actively working to improve outcomes on both sides of the recycling bin: promoting better messaging to be “cart smart” and supporting local markets to put those materials back to beneficial use. The state has developed a back-to-basics public education campaign, Recycle Right NC, to help communities inform their residents to put only those recyclable items that MRFs can manage in their carts. Single-stream recycling programs that emphasize the collection of cans, bottles, cardboard and paper most efficiently recover the highest tonnages. Items like textiles and plastic bags, while reusable and recyclable when managed separately, cannot be recovered when mixed together with other materials in curbside recycling.

To ease market stress in the short-term, communities can educate residents to recycle only those materials that truly belong in recycling containers. In the long-term, recycling markets will improve as contamination is reduced and use of recycled content increases. Americans are expecting more sustainable practices and manufacturers are listening. Domestic manufacturers are increasing the amount of recycled content in products; recyclers are investing in new and upgraded facilities; and North Carolina is building a more resilient recycling marketplace that spurs local economic growth and conserves our natural resources. North Carolinians love to recycle, and with the right information, doing so will be easier than ever.

Now is the time to reinvigorate our outreach about recycling and focus on recovering the quality material that can be used in American markets. Using regional recycling buyers means more environmental and economic benefits for NC, but requires that recyclables be better sorted. That is where we all can help, with every correct item we put in the bin!

Credit: Recycle More NC

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George and Marian Moyer

Rutherford County, NC – July 31, 2019: George and Marian Moyer, a retired couple that volunteered in the Keep RC Beautiful spring county-wide litter sweep, are two Rutherford County citizens actively combatting the area’s litter problem. The couple moved from Pennsylvania to Rutherford County in September 2012 after marrying in the same year. George had admired a plot of land for sale in Rutherfordton since 2006, and the couple purchased that land and designed their own log cabin to share. The two certainly miss their family who remain in Pennsylvania, but they found a calling in Rutherford County to stop littering, keeping their homesickness at bay.

George and Marian began focusing on the litter problem not long after moving to the county. The couple feels that litter is a worldwide problem, but that they have a civic duty to help combat this problem, and Keep RC Beautiful provided an outlet for them to collaborate with others. Chatting with the couple revealed more than just a dislike for litter.

Q: Why do you both care about keeping Rutherford County clean, and why did you participate in the Keep RC Beautiful litter sweep?

G: “Both of us have always been against seeing people litter. We talked about it, and once we saw the article about Keep RC Beautiful meetings in the paper, we decided to learn more and participate in the organization. We hate to see trash along the roads, and if we don’t do something about the litter, who will?”

M: “You would think people would just wait until they got home to throw away their trash.”

G: “It is particularly upsetting when you are with people who bring beer and drinks into a place and they cannot take their cans and bottles out with them.”

M: “It’s sad that we have to do it, but someone has to keep the county clean. We have to teach others to be good stewards of the environment.”

Q: What community/area did you impact/clean? What all did you do there?

G: “We cleaned the area around the Walmart shopping center. I proposed it to the Rutherford Lions Club to gain their support. Marian contacted people in our development and we brought it to the attention of the church we attend – Rutherford Presbyterian Church. We also helped contact numerous individuals through phone calls and emails to rally support for the spring litter sweep.”

M: “We had 17 people in our group, and we also cleaned the area around Fatz, the parking lot of the old Ryan’s building, and the hotel near Fatz. We figured we could round up enough support to clean those areas over the span of a few days.”

Q: Why is being environmentally conscious, especially in such a small county, important?

G: “If we do our part herein Rutherfordton, hopefully we will plant a seed that will blossom and spread. Other counties will see what we are doing and the movement towards keeping the environment clean will carry on to even farther locations. We are just a small part, and we hope that what we do will grow and expand to other areas.”

M: “It has to start small and somewhere. I agree with George. If people riding through the county see how clean our streets are, they may take initiative in their own areas.”

Q: Any takeaways and/or teaching moments from the clean-up?

G: “A lot of people passed us by while we cleaned. No one said a word to us.”

M: “But, one person stopped by and told us thank you. He rolled down his window and thanked us for what we were doing.”

Q: How did that make you feel, considering many people passed by you and your clean-up crew and didn’t say anything?

M: “It was really nice, and it does make your day. You want to be positive and think that the others were saying thank you in a non-verbal way. We don’t do it for the ‘thank yous,’ but they are much appreciated.”

Q: How do you see yourself supporting Keep Rutherford County Beautiful in the future?

G: “We have actually become more involved as each of the clean-up days happened. We did a volunteer job at the correction center on our own, and we’ve just gotten more involved as things happened and needed our help.”

M: “We keep bags in our cars to use to pick up litter along the roadways while we are out. Other people involved with Keep RC Beautiful have also continued to pick up litter even after the clean-up ended.”

Q: In your opinion, what can Rutherford County citizens do to help keep the area clean?

M: “If litter bugs of any kind will be more conscious of what they are throwing out, educate their children, and get involved in clean-ups, they can do their part in keeping the area clean. They can turn away from their old habits.”

G: “We gotta educate the people, and with Roxi going out to the elementary schools, they can teach their parents. Change will start then.”

If you found this story inspiring, join the movement for a cleaner, more beautiful Rutherford County. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and empower our citizens to take action every day to improve and beautify their community. Find us on Facebook @KeepRCNCBeautiful, or email us at

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