Mardi Gras beads creating “Plastic Disaster”

Gerald Herbert / AP
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It’s a beloved century-old Carnival season tradition in New Orleans — masked riders on lavish floats fling strings of colorful beads or other trinkets to parade watchers clamoring with outstretched arms.

It’s all in good fun but it’s also a 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 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.

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, where they only complicate efforts to keep the flood-prone city’s streets dry. Tons have been pulled from the aging drainage system in recent years.


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!