Plastic bottles collected from Tampa Bay beaches and waterways will make their way to local store shelves within a month as part of a pilot recycling and reuse program launched by The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Beverages Florida.

More than 150 volunteers from Coca-Cola Beverages Florida joined forces with Ocean Conservancy on Sept. 15 to collect trash and recyclables from the Tampa marina across the beaches of St. Petersburg. All plastic bottles collected will be recycled in the area and return to the Tampa/St. Petersburg market by mid-October as Coca-Cola 20-oz. bottles made with small amounts of recycled PET collected from the cleanup.

“The bottles and cans that we’re collecting are valuable recyclables and we want them back – all of them,” said Erin Black, vice president of sustainability and risk management, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida. “While our plastic bottles already contain some recycled material, we want to do more to reinforce the importance of recycling. So we’re taking an extra step at this year’s cleanup.

Gandy Beach

This pilot and the cleanup efforts support The Coca-Cola Company’s World Without Waste vision to recover and reuse the equivalent of 100 percent of the bottles and cans it sells by 2030.

Coca-Cola Beverages Florida hosted a friendly competition between the Tampa marina and St. Petersburg teams to see which side of the bay could collect the most recyclables and trash. Several volunteers even brought their family members along to join in the fun. Tampa marina volunteers won the competition by a small margin, with 802 pounds of trash and recyclables collected and removed during the event. Some interesting finds included a child’s lion piano, brake pads, a couch cushion, semi-truck tires, abandoned kayaks and a frisbee.

Kicking off the event were guest speakers Florida Senator Darryl E. Rouson representing the 19th district, Florida State Representative Jackie Toledo for District 60, and Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera for District 7. Local environmental partners Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Keep Pinellas Beautiful also participated. 

Tampa Recycling

While recycling and cleaning up waterways is a global issue, it all starts with a local focus.  The Tampa cleanup is one small part of a larger nationwide effort to renew communities by reclaiming and recycling our beverage bottles and cans across the country through the rest of the year.  Actions such as these are a step forward as we work to clean our waterways, and increase our recovery endeavors, while inspiring more organizations to invest locally.

“I grew up here in Florida,” Black said. “We have over 600 miles of beach and shoreline. We have millions of visitors that come to our wonderful state each day. Giving back to our state and our communities is so important to me as a local resident here in Florida. We are partnering with organizations like the Ocean Conservancy and our local partners here in Tampa and St. Pete to help be part of the solution.”

This includes providing access to community recycle bins and educational resources. Coca-Cola has invested more than $16 million to support recycling in the U.S., including donating more than 1 million recycling bins to communities around the country and we’ll continue to do more.  But marine litter and waste is a global issue that requires the collaborative efforts of multiple global partners.  “We know that Coca-Cola Beverages Florida and The Coca-Cola Company cannot do this alone. We can only do it through engagement with our communities,” said Black. 

Tampa Beach Cleanup

Patricia DePlasco, executive director for Keep Pinellas Beautiful put it best. “If you were to put all the corporations together and everybody did just a little bit, think about what a beautiful world we’d have,” she said.