NEW ORLEANS — It’s a beloved century-old Carnival season custom in New Orleans — masked riders on lavish floats fling strings of colourful beads or different trinkets to parade watchers clamoring with outstretched arms.
It’s all in good enjoyable but it surely’s additionally a little bit of a “plastics disaster,” says Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and president of the advocacy group Beyond Plastics.
Carnival season is at its peak this weekend. The metropolis’s annual sequence of parades started greater than every week in the past and can shut out on Tuesday — Mardi Gras — a remaining day of revelry earlier than Lent. Thousands attend the parades they usually go away a large number of trash behind.
Despite an enormous each day cleanup operation that leaves the post-parade panorama remarkably clear, uncaught beads dangle from tree limbs like Spanish moss and get floor into the mud below the ft of passers-by. They additionally wash into storm strains, the place they solely complicate efforts to maintain the flood-prone metropolis’s streets dry. Tons have been pulled from the getting older drainage system in recent times.
And people who aren’t faraway from the storm drains ultimately get washed by way of the system and into Lake Pontchartrain — the massive Gulf of Mexico inlet north of the town. The nonbiodegradable plastics are a risk to fish and wildlife, Enck mentioned.
“The waste is becoming a defining characteristic of this event,” mentioned Brett Davis, a New Orleans native who grew up catching beads at Mardi Gras parades. He now heads a nonprofit that works to scale back the waste.
One method of constructing a dent within the demand for brand new plastic beads is to reuse outdated ones.
Parade-goers who carry house procuring baggage of freshly caught beads, foam footballs, rubber balls and a bunch of different freshly flung goodies can donate the haul to the Arc of New Orleans. The group repackages and resells the merchandise to boost cash for the providers it offers to adults and youngsters with disabilities.
The metropolis of New Orleans and the tourism promotion group New Orleans & Co. even have assortment factors alongside parade routes for cans, glass and, sure, beads.
Aside from recycling, there’s a small however rising motion to search out one thing else for parade riders to lob.
Grounds Krewe, Davis’s nonprofit, is now advertising and marketing greater than two dozen forms of nonplastic, sustainable gadgets for parade riders to pitch. Among them: headbands made from recycled T-shirts; beads made out of paper, acai seeds or recycled glass; wood yo-yos; and packets of locally-made espresso, jambalaya combine or different meals gadgets — helpful, consumable gadgets that gained’t simply take up area in somebody’s attic or, worse, wind up within the lake.
“I just caught 15 foam footballs at a parade,” Davis joked. “What am I going to do with another one?”
Enck, who visited New Orleans final 12 months and attended Mardi Gras celebrations, hopes parade organizers will undertake the biodegradable options.
“There are great ways to have fun around this wonderful festival,” she mentioned. “But you can have fun without damaging the environment.”