Cleaning krewe: Recycling effort targets Mardi Gras trash

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mardi Gras produces days of merriment, indulgence, a few hangovers — and a lot of garbage. Once the parades have passed and the beads have been thrown, the cleanup begins.

This year two New Orleans organizations aimed to change things with a pilot recycling project to collect cans, plastic bottles and that ubiquitous Mardi Gras accessory dangling from fences, trees and balconies: beads.

Hannah Kincannon heads recycling efforts for the Young Leadership Council, which has partnered with local events and festivals to help make them greener. She said Mardi Gras is how the city represents itself to the world.

“We really want to represent ourselves as a city that has a sustainable mindset,” she said. “Just like Mardi Gras is something that everyone can participate in, recycling is something everyone can participate in.”

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Mardi Gras generates hundreds of millions of dollars and brings thousands of visitors to the city. But it has an environmental impact. Earlier this year, the city announced it had cleared out 93,000 pounds (42,200 kilograms) of beads clogging catch basins.

Stephen Sauer, executive director of Arc of Greater New Orleans, which is working with YLC, said the beads are toxic and have a tendency to twist and make knots.

“Anytime we can avoid getting beads in landfills and out of the catch basins, the better we are,” he said.

ArcGNO, which helps people with intellectual disabilities, already had a project where they accept, sort and resell beads to the krewes that put on the various parades. But that relied on people bringing their beads after the parades were over.

This year, the two organizations went to the source. They set up six recycling centers to collect beads, plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Volunteers also handed out bags for people to fill, and trucks traveled behind the parade to collect the recyclables.

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