MacDonald Training Center to recycle, resell thousands of pounds of Gasparilla beads

It's that time of year again. When pirates invade Tampa Bay, when wannabe pirates have a party, and when everyone doesn't mind a bead or two. But what happens to them once the big day is over?

The beads that don't make it home wind up on the ground, then in boxes collected by the City of Tampa and volunteers. And then, they arrive at the MacDonald Training Center.

"We don't know how many we could get this year," said Krista Wright, program coordinator.

In 2020, they took in 4,000 pounds of beads or about 13,000 necklaces that the pirates leave behind. Then, they get to work untangling, grouping and packaging for next year.

"There is material handling, there is sorting, there is repackaging or packaging, there's quality control," Wright explained.

Those skills are especially valuable given the MacDonald Training Center employs people of varying abilities who are working to gain independence. Fifty of them will work to repackage the beads to sell for next year's parade.

"Those are skills they can use to then get a job in the community in logistics, manufacturing, a packaging facility," commented Wright.

For the city of Tampa, the program keeps the booty out of the bay and landfills. The necklaces can also clog their recycling machines. So to know the beads are going to a program that helps people become contributing members of society is a double-win for taxpayers.

"It is an education and awareness campaign that can allow people to think these beads can be used for something else," said city of Tampa recycling coordinator Edgar Castro Tello.

So the next time you jump for joy at your new beads or pick up a pack of them at the MacDonald Center or their website, remember who had them in their hands before you did.

"As they move forward and find a job and their place on a team, in a business, and have their work family and establish themselves in their own lives, there's nothing better," said Wright.

The beads are put up for sale for $60 for 1,000 necklaces.

Link: Unwanted beads can be dropped off at collection bins at several locations across the Bay Area, including those found at