TAMPA, Fla. — After you finish celebrating the Gasparilla festivities on Saturday, be sure to hold onto those beads.
The Florida Aquarium said in a news release that for every 5-gallon bucket of beads dropped off at their location, they will offer a 50 percent discount off one general admission ticket through Sunday, Feb. 12.
“The Florida Aquarium is committed to reducing plastic pollution and the beads we like to celebrate with often end up in our water where they can be ingested by, and harm, wildlife,” Dr. Debborah Luke, senior vice president of conservation at The Florida Aquarium, said in a statement. “Gasparilla is a big part of Tampa tradition, and we want people to have fun, but we are encouraging everyone to keep beads around their neck and out of the bay.”
Like all other plastics, beads will break down into microplastic and never decompose, which means they will stay in the ecosystem for hundreds of years, the aquarium says.
The beads that the Florida Aquarium collects will go to the MacDonald Training Center, which is a nonprofit organization that helps adults with disabilities prepare for the workforce.
Those part of the organization will then sanitize and repackage the beads for future resale events. Any proceeds made at these events will fund education and career programs at the MacDonald Training Center.
“Gasparilla beads cannot be recycled, so this is the best way the community can make sure the beads stay out of the waterways and landfills, while simultaneously advancing our community partnership,” Luke said in a statement.
Florida Aquarium divers and other organizations will take part in a bead cleanup after the Gasparilla celebrations conclude. Divers reportedly pulled 120 pounds of beds out of local waters in 2019.
Not only is throwing beads into the water harmful to wildlife, but it is also illegal in the state.
For more information on the aquarium's Bead Free Bay initiative, click here.