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Let the Good Times Go Green

New Orleans looking into biodegradable parade trinkets and increased recycling efforts

March 5, 2019

As New Orleans, LA, celebrates Mardi Gras today, editors at The Times Picayune are calling for a more green and sustainable way to laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll).

After a season of parades and street festivities, the city is left to clean up tons of glittery beads, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, twinkling rings, and other plastic trash. Last year, city workers removed 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads from the city’s drainage system along five blocks of the parade route on St. Charles Avenue. Street-cleaning crews remove an average of about 900 tons of waste during the Mardi Gras season. In 2018 alone, they picked up nearly 1,200 tons of parade garbage.

A pharmacology professor at Tulane University in New Orleans found lead in bead samples picked up from the street, along with higher traces of lead accumulated in the ground along the parade routes. Scientists are looking for environmental alternatives for parade trinkets. A biological sciences professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, has created biodegradable beads from algae.

In the meantime, city officials are looking to increase bead recycling efforts and city workers are putting bumpers across some storm drains to keep the beads out.

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