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Mardi Gras recycling

Mardi Gras celebrations are over, so what happens to all those beads?

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Mardi Gras celebrations may have wrapped up earlier this week, but one question remains: where do all those beads go?

Well, before the Arc of Greater New Orleans and the Youth Leadership Council collaborated, most of those eye-catching beads end up hanging from trees, scattered across residential yards, or sitting in catch basins. Stephen Sauer, executive director of Arc of Greater New Orleans, said that's problematic for the environment.

"When they hit the ground, often they'll break, then they knot up. And so, it's not just that those beads are getting into the drain basins, but they're knotting up and clogging everything."
Stephen Saur of Arc of Greater New Orleans

According to the city of New Orleans, officials removed 93,000 pounds of mardi gras beads clogging catch basins earlier this year.

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That's why this year, two local organizations piloted a recycling program aimed to alleviate some of holiday's environmental footprint. Unlike past unsuccessful recycling projects following Mardi Gras, volunteers set up six centers to collect everything from plastic bottles, to aluminum, and, of course, beads. And volunteers even appealed directly to the source. They distributed bags for people to fill while trucks traveled behind the parade to collect the recyclables.

A bit of rainy weather curtailed the pilot, but Sauer said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm among parade goers. It's also being well-received by local residents, who have to deal with the trash long after tourists and travelers dip out of the city.

"It's definitely not something you want laying around and decomposing in your yard," said New Orleans resident Felicia Cary.

The Youth Leadership Center intends to expand the protect to more Mardi Gras parades next year. That could be good news for ecosystems near Louisiana.

"Beads are really toxic, and so, any bead that we can save from the landfills, or from Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico, is one step toward a greener, healthier environment for everybody," Sauer continued.

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