An estimated 25 million pounds of plastic beads make their way through New Orleans every Mardi Gras, according to the Los Angeles Times. And because they can’t be processed by local recyclers, they often end up as litter in nearby waterways or dumped in landfills.
But several local community groups are working to collect this year’s Mardi Gras beads and reuse them at other events.
The Arc of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit that provides jobs for individuals with mental disabilities, has introduced a “Catch and Release” float that encourages party-goers to toss back their baubles at the end of the parade, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Collected beads are bundled and resold at discounted prices for next year’s festivities or for other celebrations throughout the year, including St. Patrick’s Day.
The trailer was showered with 1,000 pounds of beads during its debut at a Feb. 5 parade in Metairie, La. – 1,000 pounds of plastic that will be kept out of the landfill, Margie Perez, Arc’s recycling coordinator, told the Times-Picayune. The float will follow two other parades this season.
VerdiGras, a nonprofit that aims to green Mardi Gras, also collaborated with Arc this year to pilot a parade-route recycling program, setting out bins for beads, paper, plastic and aluminum along a six-block stretch of Feb. 11’s Krewe of Pontchartrain parade.
Arc will also be collecting unwanted beads at four locations throughout New Orleans and the neighboring cities of Metairie and Westwego. Last year, Arc accumulated 100,000 pounds of beads through school bead drives, bead recycling bins stationed at grocery stores and donations from private citizens.