Millions of strands of plastic beads will be tossed to the clamoring crowds during Saturday's Gasparilla celebrations in Tampa. The MacDonald Training Center, Krispy Kreme, Florida Aquarium and the city are working to see that fewer of those beads end up in the trash.
Beads can be dropped off at the Krispy Kreme at 3113 W Kennedy Blvd. on Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only. Bring in at least 12 pounds of beads and receive a coupon for a free dozen original glazed doughnuts. Krispy Kreme collected around 3,000 pounds of beads in 2018 and a spokesperson said they hope to top that this year.
Meanwhile, the Florida Aquarium is offering discounts and free admission in exchange for beads dropped off through Jan. 27 in an effort to remind people attending the parade "to be careful and keep their beads out of the bay," Florida Aquarium President and CEO Roger Germann said in a statement. Anyone who brings 10 pounds of beads to the aquarium will receive $10 off one general admission ticket. Those who bring 30 pounds or more will get free admission.
The beads are donated to the MacDonald Training Center, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities. There, the beads are untangled, repackaged and sold back to Gasparilla krewes, discounted from the price of new beads imported from China. The money is used to support MacDonald Training Center programs.
If you'd rather just donate the beads directly, the city will collect them at the Copeland Park, Kate Jackson, Loretta Ingraham and Port Tampa community centers during regular hours starting Feb. 4. Beads can also be dropped off directly to the MacDonald Training Center at 5420 W Cypress St. on any weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The City of Tampa Government Facebook page notes that Gasparilla beads "cannot be recycled in your curbside recycling cart because they tangle our equipment."
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of beads are used in the annual Gasparilla celebrations. Much of that plastic ends up being burned for electricity, buried in landfills or sinking to the bottom of Hillsborough Bay along the parade route.
Contact Christopher Spata at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @spatatimes on Twitter.