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Retiree Bob Luce is on a one-man mission to remove trash from the Hillsborough River

Once a week, 77-year-old Bob Luce launches his inflatable kayak on the Hillsborough River in Temple Terrace, and over the next two to three hours he uses litter grabbers of various lengths to pick trash out of the water. When he comes across an enchanting wildlife scene, turtles basking on the bank, a limpkin on the hunt, or a mama alligator with her newly hatched babies, he takes a picture.

“Photography is my drive. It makes me want to come out here,’’ he says.

For 14 years, he’s been removing trash from the river and Sweetwater Creek before that. He knows it’s a never-ending task. It’s just getting worse: the steady increase in population means a steady increase of trash in the river, he says – more plastic bottles, plastic bags, Styrofoam take-out containers and the like.

“It’s useless in the sense that I’ll never catch up. The litter will be there again in two weeks as if I didn’t do anything two weeks before,’’ he says.

On a hot Wednesday morning, he is getting ready to inflate his kayak. He launches from Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace, an especially scenic part of the river.

“So it’s gotten to the point that I’m not actually doing this for people, humanity,” Luce says. “I’m actually doing it for the critters – and when I say critters I mean the birds, the turtles, the gators – and for me, because I like the beauty of the river.”

He wonders if school kids are taught the problems of litter and what it does to the environment. It doesn’t seem so to him. People will sit in their cars next to the river and toss the trash out their windows, even though a trash can is a short distance away, he says. Or they throw litter out the window while driving along a city street. It gets washed into storm drains at the next heavy rain and makes its way to the river, then the bay and beyond.

View Bob Luce's videos on YouTube »