TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Pirates slinging beads into crowds of paradegoers is a Gasparilla tradition, and the City of Tampa wants to keep those beads out of the bay.

“Sometimes a 10-second enjoyment of catching it is not worth it if it ends up in the water,” said Edgar Castro Tello, a recycling specialist with the City of Tampa. “When beads end up in the water they’re exposed to the elements of the salt and sunlight, the start to breakdown. A lot of the coating can sometimes chip off and wildlife, like fish, can ingest them—these beads never break down, they’re going to be there for hundreds, even thousands of years.”

Recycling bins have been set up at spots around the city for residents to drop off unwanted beads.

The sites are at:

  • Copeland Park Community Center, 1101 N. 15th Street
  • Kate Jackson Community Center, 831 S Rome Avenue
  • Loretta Ingraham Recreation Complex, 1611 N Hubert Avenue
  • MacDonald Training Center, 5420 W Cypress Street

The collected beads are taken to the MacDonald Training Center where they’re sanitized, repackaged and resold for next year’s festivities. All money from the sales funds career and education programs at the center.

The drop-off locations are open from Jan. 31 to May 2022.

“We want people to have fun, get their beads but they can know that if they want to throw them away they can drop them off at our location and they will be reused,” Castro Tello said. “We collected around 4,000 pounds from our drop-off locations along with the Sunday clean up—that equates to 130,000 individual necklace. That’s only a small drop in the bucked of all the beads that get used during Gasparilla.”

More information about the Bead Free Bay collection program is on its website.

The Florida Aquarium is joining in on the effort, encouraging families to recycle beads by offering a half-price ticket for admission for every 5-gallon bucket of beads a person donates at the aquarium through February 5th.