BRANDON — Community activism and creativity will converge Sept. 21 when Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful hosts the 26th annual Hillsborough River & Coastal Cleanup, followed by the sometimes-hilarious Rollin’ on the River Rally and Recycle Regatta.
Before that can happen, though, the non-profit is seeking volunteers to join the cleanup effort on the Hillsborough River and on the edges of waterways throughout Hillsborough County.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful is also seeking sponsors and partners to assist with the cleanup, which entails removing litter and debris that would otherwise end up in local waterways. It will collect data from the event, recording the type of refuse retrieved from area shorelines and where, the overall tonnage and the amount of recyclables that can be diverted from the landfill.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Community Education Liaison Patricia DiPlasco said the information it collects will help determine future needs and projects in the area and create an awareness of the needs within the community. The information will also be shared with Keep America Beautiful, Ocean Conservancy and local officials.
The fun part begins when the cleanup is over. All volunteers are invited to Lowry Park for the Rollin’ on the River Rally, where they will be treated to a picnic lunch, live music and the River Rat Team Challenge and Recycle Regatta.
Teams of students in seventh grade and up, corporations and social groups are invited to build rafts from at least 70 percent trash, technically known as post consumer waste, DiPlasco said.
Some of the teams tend to get very creative. As an example, DiPlasco said, last year, a team for JC Newman created a cigar boat and used dry ice to make it look as though the cigar, made from barrels, was smoking.
“We had 12 or 13 boats last year and we are hoping to expand on that,” she said. “We’ve had them made from broken air mattresses, doors, plastic bottles, you name it.” The entries are both innovative and creative, she said.
The boats race in heats, based on the age or category of participants.
There will also be numerous environmental education booths and exhibits set up at Lowry Park.
Last year, the volunteer cleanup netted 60,000 pounds of litter and debris at 75 locations. About 3,200 volunteers participated, covering almost 100 miles of rivers, lakes and shorelines.
While plenty of large items were retrieved, volunteers also counted some of the more minute, but plentiful items. Among the take was some 11,503 cigarette butts, 9,009 food wrappers, 8,448 plastic bags and 6,193 bottle caps.
For more information on how to get involved in the Coastal Cleanup, contact Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful at (813) 221-8733, or email [email protected]tbb.org.