TAMPA, Fla. — The amount of plastic flowing into our oceans is expected to nearly triple over the next two decades and reach 29 million metric tons, according to a study by Pew Research. On Saturday morning, a group of Hillsborough County residents did their part to help keep our waterways clean.
Tatiana Cruz and her husband, Mario, picked up kayaking fishing as a pandemic hobby. Once they got out on the Hillsborough River and saw the amount of trash in the water, they wanted to find a way to help. The couple runs the nonprofit Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers, with a goal to educate people about kayak fishing and conservation.
“If we don’t educate and we don’t come out here and do it, who else is going to do it?" Tatiana said. "There’s tons of trash we see in the river and it takes people like our volunteers to get on a kayak, get on the water and get that garbage out.”
The organization is specifically geared towards members of the Hispanic community who want to get involved in environmental efforts.
"Hispanics are big on recycling and we’re festive people," Tatiana said. "When we come together with our music, we love the water and it just culturally represents who we are. We’re happy, we’re festive, we love recycling, we’re having a good time and it's all for the benefit of our community."
A couple dozen volunteers, including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, joined the organization on Saturday morning for their first river clean-up. Cruz said it's all about taking care of our home and leaving it better for the next generation — a sentiment even the youngest of volunteers agree with.
“I studied and loved animals my whole life," said 9-year-old volunteer Analisse. "I think it’s a very, very important thing to take care of animals. Animals use waters and since they’re dirty and they have plastic, we want to save them and clean up the waters.”
Glass bottles, plastic bags and wrappers are the most common pieces of trash volunteers said they find floating in the water. The organization says you can do your part to help keep the river clean by making sure your trash gets into the can, as well as recycling and using less plastic.
“I think that all rivers should be clean so we can save fish and I think that we can make this world a better place if we clean up,” Analisse said.
Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers plans to host another cleanup event later this year. The organization also puts on free events to teach people about fishing and kayaking.