Mardi Gras Carnival of New Orleans producing plastic waste

Mardi Gras Carnival of New Orleans is an enjoyable and lively event that takes place every year. The downside of the event is that a lot of plastic pollution is generated from the beads and trinkets that are used to celebrate. Read below to learn what environmentalists have to say and what efforts they are making to minimize the problem.

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Mardi Gras is a much awaited Carnival season tradition that takes place in New Orleans. The annual century-old event is greatly enjoyed but unfortunately produces a notable amount of plastic waste. People on grand floats toss numerous strings of colorful beads onto parade watchers.

Although there are measures taken by the local officials to clean up post the event, there is still a significant amount of plastic waste that is not properly disposed of. Now concerns are being raised regarding the damage that the plastic beads are causing to the environment and people are raising their voices with potential solutions.  

Current Problem - Pastic Pollution

Carnival season is at its height this weekend. The city's annual series of parades began more than a week ago and will close out on Tuesday — Mardi Gras — a final day of revelry before Lent. Thousands attend the parades and they leave a mess of trash behind.

Plastic waste
Plastic waste Pinterest

Despite a massive daily cleanup operation that leaves the post-parade landscape remarkably clean, uncaught beads dangle from tree limbs like Spanish moss and get ground into the mud under the feet of passers-by. They also wash into storm strains, which only complicate efforts to keep the flood-prone city's streets dry. Tons have been pulled from the aging drainage system in recent years.

And those that aren't removed from the storm drains eventually get washed through the system and into Lake Pontchartrain — the large Gulf of Mexico inlet north of the city. The nonbiodegradable plastics are a threat to fish and wildlife, Enck said.

Thoughts from environmentalists and visitors

Judith Enck recognized that Mardi Gras is a festive event that provides good fun but she brought up that it is also a “plastics disaster.” Enck is a former Environmental worker with the advocacy group Beyond Plastics as a president and Protection Agency regional administrator.
Last year Enck visited New Orleans and visited the Mardi Gras celebrations. She looks forward to biodegradable alternatives being adopted by parade organizers. Enck conveyed “There are great ways to have fun around this wonderful festival," she said. ”But you can have fun without damaging the environment.”

Enck's post on Mardi Gras and plastic waste:

A New Orleans resident Brett Davis stated “The waste is becoming a defining characteristic of this event.” Davis grew up participating in the Mardi Gras and now works as the head of a nonprofit organization that contributes towards waste reduction. Brett Davis further commented “I just caught 15 foam footballs at a parade,” Davis joked. “What am I going to do with another one?"
In an email, Christy Leavitt stated, "These efforts will help green Mardi Gras." He belongs to the group of Oceana. Leavitt brings up an important point as he refers to how this will affect the environment of the city and will benefit the image of the carnival.

Efforts made to find solutions

Grounds Krewe is the name of Davis's nonprofit which is currently marketing over two dozen types of nonplastic, sustainable items to replace the strings of plastic beads and other trinkets used in the carnival.

Some items being produced are headbands created of recycled T-shirts; beads made from paper, recycled glass, and acai seeds; yo-yos crafted from wood; and coffee packets which are made locally, jambalaya mix, or other food items. These are consumable and useful goods that won't just create clutter at homes, or end up polluting the lake.

Another way to reduce plastic waste from the event is to reuse old plastic beads. Those attending the parade who take bags full of plastic goods from the carnival such as foam footballs, caught beads, and rubber balls may donate the items to the Arc of New Orleans. This organization resells the items after repackaging them. The money which is raised goes to providing services to children and adults with disabilities.

The city of New Orleans and the tourism promotion organization New Orleans & Co. have the concept of collection points along parade routes for glass, cans, and beads. This is another way to encourage people to keep the environment clean.
New Orleans is making efforts to minimize plastic pollution for the annual Mardi Gras Carnival. With small steps, big positive changes can be made for our environment.