Marigny Green News
Where Do All the Mardi Gras Plastic Beads Go?
Mardi Gras lasts two weeks and thousands of tourists and locals attend the growing number of parades. Each Krewe has their own “throws” and more and more are being lobbed to the enthusiastic viewers.
It appears during Mardi Gras that spectators are more interested in screaming, “Throw me something” and struggling to catch the strands of plastic beads and other trinkets than looking at the incredible crafted floats. The best beads are being worn merrily by the festival goers and many more beads are daggling from the trees, wrapped on electric lines and hanging on streetlights.
Every year over 20 million pounds of plastic beads are being shipped to the U.S. primarily from China and the largest percent of them goes to Louisiana. With the overwhelming amount of trash generated from these parades, there is no citywide recycling program. However, many citizens and organizations are committed to not having all the plastic go to the landfill.
What to Do With Your Unwanted Beads?
Arc of Greater New Orleans (ArcGNO) is a non-profit organization for people with intellectual disabilities. These individuals have jobs in a sheltered workshop to select, sort and re-pack Mardi Gras beads. For over 30years, ArcGNO sells the beads and trinkets to Mardi Gras Krewes and individuals. The profits from the sales goes back into the non-profit. ArcGNO runs several other businesses and employs over 80 adults. ArcGNO has a main warehouse in Metairie and is filled with employees and volunteers listening to music and helping sort through the pounds of beads.
ArcGNO has partnered with organizations and businesses to have drop off boxes to collect the unwanted beads and other Mardi Gras throws. The drop boxes are semi-permanent so call ArcGNO (504.324.1919 ) after this season to see the updated list of drop-of spots. Some local businesses have annual drives and gives incentives to their customers for donating their beads. Even schools in New Orleans are competing to donate the most beads with a monetary reward from ArcGNO. I was pleased to learn that there is a Fair-Trade section at ArcGNO selling items such as cloth Frisbees, fabric boas from Guatemala and paper beads from Uganda. The cost is more but the quality is better and not plastic.
The use of plastic beads has become an on-going conversation for many members of various Mardi Gras Krewes. Some Krewes have a designated float to throw back ‘your beads’ and other Krewes are using helpful throws such as flashlights, bottle openers and glass beads.
ArcGNO is just one organization in New Orleans that recycles beads/trinkets. There is a need for so many more recycling programs. As citizens, we need to encourage and challenge our city leaders to invest in citywide recycling of Mardi Gras beads/ throws to reduce the number of plastics that goes to the landfill.
ArcGNO summarized it perfectly to the Mardi Gras riders, “throw smarter and less and for everyone to recycle their beads and trinkets.”
Happy Mardi Gras