A 9-year-old boy from Chattanooga is on a mission to rid the Tennessee River of trash. 

Cash Daniels says the idea came to him during a family vacation last year. “I was playing on the beach with my brother when I saw something that caught my attention,” said Daniels.

It was a piece of plastic and it got him thinking about polluted waterways. “How can just a tiny piece of plastic infect the whole big ocean?” asked Daniels. Daniels says he’s always loved fish and was worried about the fish that live in the ocean. “On the way home from the beach I thought, I live a long way from the ocean but then I remembered the rivers where we live are polluted too,” continued Daniels. 

Daniels immediately started putting together a plan to help rid them of pollutants. “I went about my days and told my mom I wanted to do a river cleanup,” said Daniels. He started organizing monthly cleanups along the Tennessee River.

He and his mom, Erin, spread the word on social media and invited family and friends to join him. “We found a bunch of cigarette butts, straws, plastic bags, water bottles and tires,” said Daniels. Since that first cleanup at Harrison Bay, Daniels has even written a children’s book, ‘One Small Piece,’ about how one person can make a difference in the environment. 

“It’s about how picking up one small piece of trash can make a difference in the world. What inspired me to write it is there weren’t many books about cleaning up the river but there were books about cleaning up the ocean,” said Daniels.

Daniels encourages people to be more aware of trash along waterways.

“When you don’t really think about the plastic, you don’t see it on the ground but when you think about it you always see it. You see stuff that you didn’t see before,” Daniels told Channel 3.

Daniels says he cares deeply about animals, especially fish, and hopes to volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium when he’s old enough to do so.

“Making a difference in the world isn’t easy but if you want to make a difference in the world you have to do it and you have to work hard for it,” said Daniels.

Daniels has the support of Florida nonprofit, ‘1 Piece Each,’ a group that raises awareness about the effects humans have on the plant. The nonprofit donated buckets and gloves for Daniels’ cleanups.

The next cleanup is scheduled for this Saturday, July 27 from 10:00 until 12:00 at The Chickamauga Dam / Riverpark. The public is invited to attend.

Daniels plans to partner with T-Mobile for a corporate cleanup in August.