For the first time ever, Tampa will take part in recycling some of the millions of plastic beads tossed to the clamoring crowds during Gasparilla celebrations.
The program was started independent of the city in 2017, when Krispy Kreme partnered with MacDonald Training Center to swap beads for doughnuts.
Clients of the center, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities, spent a week untangling and repackaging close to 1,000 pounds of beads that were then sold to the all-female Bonney-Read Krewe to use in the 2018 Gasparilla parades.
The used beads were sold for $35 a case, a sizable discount from new beads imported from China that can run $45 to $65.
They account for a fraction of an estimated 200,000-plus-pounds of beads used in Gasparilla celebrations, much of which lands in the trash. But with the city's help, the training center said it hopes to step up the recycling program significantly.
Following this year's Gasparilla, there will be bead recycling bins at the Port Tampa, Kate Jackson and Copeland Park city community centers and the Loretta Ingraham Recreation Complex.
Krispy Kreme on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa will exchange 12 pounds of beads for a dozen doughnuts on Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and beads can be dropped off directly to MacDonald Training Center at 5420 W Cypress St. in Tampa during regular business hours.
The hundreds of city workers and volunteers from Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful who clean up the 24 tons of trash left behind at the parade route Sunday will also salvage non-broken beads and turn them over to the training center.
This year, there won't be bead recycling bins at the parade site because "we are slightly concerned paradegoers will not want to part with their newfound treasure on the day of the event," said Alita Kane, recycling coordinator for Tampa. Instead, they'll focus on collecting the beads after people bring them home.
Krewes interested in buying recycled beads for use next year can email Libby Barnes at email@example.com.