SOUTH SHORE – Residents who live in southern Hillsborough County have much to cherish in the way of natural resources. Their outdoor playground includes more than 20 miles of shoreline and two large rivers.
So it falls to the public to pitch in and clean up when the call goes out for the playground’s annual maintenance.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful needs volunteers of all ages to help remove litter and debris in and around area waterways during its 27th Annual Hillsborough River & Coastal Cleanup from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20. Organizers say it’s an opportunity to spend some quality time with family, friends and neighbors while doing something that gives back to the community.
Last year volunteers at 25 South Shore sites collected 30,000 pounds of litter and debris, which would have ended up in Tampa Bay and the Alafia and Little Manatee rivers. The total was approximately half of what was collected in the entire county, said Pat DePlasco, development and community relations director for the nonprofit Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful.
“Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful truly appreciates the broad support it receives from South County residents in keeping Tampa Bay and our local waterways beautiful,” she said. “According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), over 80 percent of all our litter on land ends up in (them).”
That litter includes tires, syringes, cigarette butts, diapers, empty cans, bottles and plastic bags. Collecting it is a huge undertaking.
DePlasco said Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful hosts the event as part of the International Coastal Cleanup to collect data on what is collected and how much – information that is shared with the Ocean Conservancy, Keep America Beautiful, local officials and area community leaders. The data includes not only overall tonnage of what was removed, but also the amount of materials – like paper, aluminum, plastic and steel – that was pulled and recycled. Such information helps gauge the need for future educational programs and clean-up efforts.
Students who volunteer can qualify for community service hours. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful furnishes supplies including gloves, grabbers, bags and water and arranges county trash pick-up.