The celebration of Mardi Gras, a sin send off before Christian Lent, fills the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, with locals, tourists — and tons of pollution.

Trash Tree, New Orleans //Samantha Kreisler

On average, the city collects nearly 1,000 tons of garbage per Mardi Gras. Last year, approximately 950 tons of debris were reported. NOLA mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted that so far this year the city had collected 262 tons of garbage before Saturday’s parades.

These staggering numbers are particularly a problem due to the flood-prone nature and infrastructure of the area. Of the total debris last year, 93,000 pounds of beads were removed from storm drains in the St. Charles area between Poydras Street and Lee Circle. Companies under an emergency contract have flushed around 15,000 clogged basins (¼ of the city’s total), withdrawing 7.2 million pounds of debris from September to January.

Gutter Buddy// NPR

As Mardi Gras 2019 commences, New Orleans stakeholders move to control the event’s plastic problem. The New Orleans Department of Sanitation executes a coordinated clean-up effort to remove street debris with timing techniques, sorting, and hiring en masse.

Officials have purchased hundreds of Gutter buddies, a basic temporary guarder to keep trash from going down the storm drains. However, these are just short-term solutions because single-use plastics are still ending up in landfills where the debris chemicals leak into waterways and carcinogens are burned into our atmosphere.

Microalgae Biodegradable Beads // Paige Jarreau LSU

Some solutions break the parade-to-landfill chain. The nonprofit ARC of Greater New Orleans has created a recycling program that collects and repackages and then sells used beads.

There are also other alternatives to using plastic for beads. In a Smithsonian Magazine article, Louisiana State University molecular biologist, Naohiro Kato, has created biodegradable beads made of microalgae.

So this year at Mardi Gras remember some tips:
  • Do not throw out your beads. Donate them to ARC of Greater New Orleans instead
  • Make sure to dispose of recyclables in the correct bin
  • Bring a reusable cup for beverages
  • On social media, tag us @EarthsCall or use the hahstag #EarthsCall

#EarthsCall #MardiGras #GreenParade

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