City of Tampa launches Bead-Free Bay campaign ahead of Gasparilla 2020

Photo of Gasparilla beads underwater

Gasparilla is a Tampa tradition. It’s rowdy, it’s loud, it’s jubilant and sometimes a little messy. While we love rocking an eye patch and a pirate hat, sometimes the aftermath of Gasparilla is worrying.

How much trash is collected after Gasparilla? More than 35 tons in 2019, according to City Officials — and they were able to recycle about 2.5 tons of what was collected. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Volunteers collected approximately 540 pounds of of additional materials, which includes beads.

Findings out of USF St. Pete and Eckerd College indicate there are nearly 4 billion micro plastics in Tampa Bay. That means 1 particle per liter of water.

Divers with the Florida Aquarium pulled more than 200 pounds of beads out of Tampa Bay following 2019’s Gasparilla celebration. To encourage folks to not toss their beads, Florida Aquarium offered discounted admission if you brought your beads with you.

While we love to celebrate, we also love this beautiful city and we want to keep it that way. Be jubilant, but be mindful.

On December 12, Mayor Jane Castor officially launched the #BeadFreeBay campaign, an anti-littering awareness campaign to remind the public that throwing beads and other litter in the water is prohibited. Beads and other non-biodegradable items are incredibly harmful to the environment and they pose serious threats to marine wildlife.

The goal of the Bead-Free Bay campaign is to minimize the environmental impact of Tampa’s traditions and events on the waterways and beyond.

“Environmental sustainability is a core tenant of my administration’s focus,” said City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.  “And while we all love a good parade, the beads thrown during the parade have no place harming our delicate ecosystem. Together, we will transform Tampa’s tomorrow by keeping our marine wildlife safe and our environment clean by keeping beads out of the water this and every event season moving forward.”

The City of Tampa has already started taking steps to minimize the ecological impact of Gasparilla. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla worked with the Coast Guard to issue a litter law notice to all mariners. The City is also rolling out a branded campaign with signs at all city docks, and will establish designated “no-throw zones” during parades to prevent beads from accidentally being tossed in the water.

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Written by Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan is the Editor of thatssotampa.com. Follow him on Twitter @harlanyoungII and Instagram @harlanyoung. Send tips and potential stories to info@thatssotampa.com.