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Need to recycle your Gasparilla beads? Thirty pounds gets you into the Florida Aquarium for free

The Florida Aquarium is offering discounted or free admission in exchange for patrons bringing in beads.

TAMPA, Fla. — ARGHH! You will likely have tons of beads left over after the Gasparilla festivities.

Instead of throwing them out or hanging on to all those beads, the Florida Aquarium has come up with a creative incentive to recycle your beads: free or discounted admission.

The Florida Aquarium is offering discounted or free admission in exchange for patrons bringing in beads. Ten pounds will equal $10 off admission, 20 pounds equal $20 off, and 30 pounds of beads gets you in for free!

"Gasparilla is a part of Tampa, but it’s also a challenge for the cleanup in our waterways," Kari Goetz with the Florida Aquarium said. "Because our waterways are why we have pirates and why we have Gasparilla. The Florida Aquarium is committed to protecting our blue planet and that starts with keeping the beads out of the bay."

Tons of beads are picked up out of the ocean every year. Last year, volunteers collected around 2,100 beads and 276 pounds of trash. 

"So you’re talking about two to three tons of plastic beads that could find their way into the waterways. Every single one of these beads, they’re shiny, they look like food, and we don’t want our sea animals eating them," Goetz said. "Make sure you are disposing of them, you are finding recycling programs, even if you don’t recycle at the Florida aquarium, have a purpose for your beads, remember your party and remember the blue planet."

The aquarium says the plan is to donate the beads to the MacDonald Training Center, a place that employs people with disabilities. Employees sort through and repurpose and repackage beads for resale to krewes or whoever would like to buy the beads in bulk, selling them for less than new beads. 

The City of Tampa is also reminding residents not to put beads in recycling bins. Instead, the city will place bins around the parade route for people to toss their unwanted beads. The city says it will sort through and repurpose the good beads. Unusable beads will be "converted to energy." 

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