The Florida Recycling Partnership Foundation and the Tampa International Airport hosted a summit Friday, August 19 to highlight regional sustainability and recycling efforts. City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor kicked off the summit at SkyCenter One, a LEED Platinum building, and outlined the City’s sustainability successes.  During her administration, Tampa has seen major success in enhancing workforce development, establishing sustainability & resilience, improving infrastructure & mobility, increasing housing affordability, and strengthening community-centric services.

Tampa International Airport, the 28th busiest in the nation, handles 59,078 passengers daily. Eric Caplan, Sustainability and Resilience Program Director, said under the airport’s Sustainable Management Plan the facility has converted more than 35 percent of its service fleet to alternative fuel vehicles, uses 100% reclaimed water for irrigation water, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent and  energy consumption by 3 percent. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which manages the four regional airports, also diverts more than 1,500 tons annually through its recycling program which includes paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, and aluminum.

Shelby Lewis, City of Tampa Recycling Coordinator, highlighted the city’s composting program which has diverted 83 tons of organic waste from the landfill through its successful Composting Drop-Off program. Tampa Bay is also home to the world-famous Gasparilla Parade which generates a lot of beads!  Through its “Bead-Free Bay” program, the city has collected approximately 10,000 pounds of beads or 333,000 individual necklaces which are cleaned and reused. Another city project, the Litter Skimmer, collects litter on local waterways.

Travis Barnes, Manager of Sustainable Materials Management for Hillsborough County Solid Waste Management Department, gave an overview of the County’s sustainability initiatives at the summit. In 2020, Hillsborough County was certified LEED Platinum under the US Green Building Council’s Leaders for Energy and Environmental Design Cities and Communities program.  At the time, Hillsborough was the only county government in Florida, and one of three in the United States, to earn the top honor for committing to sustainability and improving the lives of its residents, visitors, and businesses.

Hillsborough County is being creative and utilizing partnerships whenever possible, according to Barnes.  Recent examples of regional collaboration include the campaign focused on reducing recycling contamination and the campaign that focuses on waste reduction targeting single use plastics and is a partnership between Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Pinellas County, the City of St. Petersburg, and the City of Tarpon Springs.

Christine (Angel) Danger of the USF Sustainability Superheroes Program concluded the summit.  Sponsored by Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, the program helps children learn about sustainability, water and energy conservation, and gardening with a focus on a world without waste. A recent event at the Clearwater Aquarium saw students create toys for dolphins using trash as part of the Superheroes Program. The Summit was sponsored by Commercial Plastics Recycling, NuCycle Energy, Florida Recyclers Association, Florida Beverage Association, Publix Super Markets, Niagara Bottling, PepsiCo, and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).

For more information, contact Executive Director Keyna Cory at [email protected].