Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. Whatever you call this feasting holiday, you’re probably familiar with the decorations, the large number of beads, and all of the parades and celebrations. These beads, whose bright colors represent justice, faith, and power, are thrown from parade floats to parade attendees, but where are these beads actually ending up after the parties are over?
According to an article published by National Geographic, approximately 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads were found in the streets of New Orleans after 75 rounds of parades cycled through the city. On average, the U.S. orders up to 25 million tons of beads in total to celebrate the event. These beads add to the festive atmosphere but usually end up polluting our neighborhood streets and waterways. Usually, the bead necklaces will make their way to landfills where they take hundreds of years to decompose. The beads are also classified as single-use plastics therefore, they cannot be recycled.
Street sweepers follow parade floats for attendees to toss their beads back so they can be reused at future events. This act of returning and reusing plastic helps reduce the amount of waste shipped off to landfills. Citizens are also encouraged to keep the beads as momentos or to incorporate them into craft projects instead of tossing them in the trash or leaving them in the streets. Check out HGTV’s list of 10 creative solutions on how to reuse your Mardi Gras beads!
To help reduce the amount of plastic waste generated, scientists created biodegradable paper beads as an alternative to the plastic. These beads are environmentally friendly and will allow party-goers to continue their traditions without causing harm to the environment. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be the same without beads, but next year, opt for the paper equivalent!