Photo: Jim Bowie/Shutterstock

Mardi Gras Beads Are Creating an Obscene Amount of Trash

Sustainability News Festivals
by Eben Diskin Feb 25, 2020

Mardi Gras is all about letting loose, having fun, and putting your worries aside, but for some, the Mardi Gras experience isn’t exactly joyous. For New Orleans cleanup crews, the holiday is a nightmare. Last year, officials said cleanup crews threw away over 608 tons of Mardi Gras-related debris. This includes beer bottles, food waste, and, most prominently, Mardi Gras beads.

At the conclusion of last year’s Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, city spokeswoman LaTonya Norton said, “We will be cleaning and re-cleaning areas for the next few days.”

In 2018, crews cleaned around 1,200 tons of debris from the city streets, and 1,300 tons in 2017. Last year’s cleanup required the efforts of 500 people, including city workers, temporary staff, contractors, and over 119 pieces of equipment.

New Orleans has implemented new sanitation and litter reduction programs, including one that encourages people to bring bags to Mardi Gras to dispose of their own trash, but it’s only a small step in the right direction.

“When citizens bag their trash,” said Norton, “it reduces the volume of windblown debris, food debris that becomes an attraction to rodents and birds, as well as debris that may enter storm drains.”

New efforts to recycle beads and other parade throws are also underway, with drop-off days designated for every fourth Saturday of the month and organized by ArcGNO. With another Mardi Gras quickly approaching, it remains to be seen whether the litter situation improves or declines from last year, and whether city officials will be prompted to take further measures to prevent waste.

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