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With volunteers limited by quarantine, trashed beaches may become bigger problem

Beach clean up volunteers picked up a whopping 358,000 pounds of beach trash last year but can't do the same this year.

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — Tampa Bay has a trash problem. 

Last year, the group Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful removed more than 358,000 pounds of waste from our area alone. To put that into context for you, that's about the weight of 36 school buses.

As we social distanced, our environment recovered a bit. But, as the state reopens, it's going to be more important than ever to be careful about garbage piling up. 

Last year, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful had more than 19,000 volunteers. But with many of those volunteers now practicing social distancing, they aren't out in full force picking up as much waste. So, they need all the help they can get this year to help combat that problem.

"Oh, it's the same thing over and over, if you bring it in take it out," John Helms executive director of the Salty Soul Foundation said. He's talking about trash. Photos on social media show the newest surge of trash littering the paradise we call home with used face masks and rubber gloves scattered on the ground. 

"People are discarding their face masks and rubber gloves in parking lots because they don't want to bring them inside," Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Educating and Marketing Coordinator Laura Riiska, said. 

Add that on top of other photos showing the cups and garbage left behind by beach goers this week and they say you have a recipe for more health issues.

"It's important because 80 percent of the trash on the ground ends up in our waterways. That's a problem because Tampa gets its water from the Hillsborough River," Riiska said. 

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful is one of the main volunteer groups that clean beach trash and says last year they had more than 19,000 volunteers but this year with quarantine safety rules they are limited in what they can organize. 

"We have families calling us saying, hey we're going out on walks and would love to pick up trash can you help us?" Riisks said. 

They can help and on Friday the group gave out more than 30 bags full of supplies for picking up trash. 

"It's paramount that we keep our area and community clean not only for our own enjoyment but for our health," Riiska said.

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