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What Happens to All Those Beads After Mardi Gras?

New Orleans has a big clean up problem every year after Mardi Gras. Tons of cheap plastic beaded necklaces are thrown to crowds from parade floats. While tourists may take them home, a huge amount ends up on the streets, in the drains, and all over town.   

The population of New Orleans swells to three times its normal size this time every year, when more than 1 million tourists converge for Fat Tuesday. The festivities bring in an estimated $165 million to the city, as well as serious trash, which is why several dozen construction machines stand ready to clean up before the party even gets started.

Some 45 million pounds of plastics make their way to New Orleans every year for Mardi Gras, more than half of which consists of beaded necklaces. In January 2018 the city said it had pulled 93,000 pounds of beads from just five blocks of storm drains and more than 7 million pounds of debris overall, the Times-Picayune reported.

The city is tackling the problem from all angles. Drain guards are installed. Biodegradable beads, or at least beads with less toxic ingredients have been developed, but they are still expensive. There are recycling drives. Read about the problem of Mardi Gras beads and what can be done about it at Bloomberg.


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