Mardi Gras would not be the same without its plastic beads. For the past 200 years, people have given out freebies to parade attendees in New Orleans, starting with nuts and glass ornaments back in the day and eventually switching to the plastic beads that party-goers have grown accustomed to today. While the colorful beads have become a staple for the iconic celebration, leftover Mardi Gras beads end up littering the streets of New Orleans. Fortunately, one researcher has come up with an answer to the problem in the form of biodegradable beads. If the idea catches on, New Orleans could save a lot of money in cleanup and space in its landfills.

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In 2017, for example, the city gathered around 93,000 pounds of plastic beads after Mardi Gras was over, most of which was removed from storm drains in the city’s historic district.

Related: 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads found clogging New Orleans catch basins

To help curb the post-party cleanup, city officials invested in filtering devices to keep the beads from plugging up storm drains. While the devices keep the water flowing in New Orleans, they do not prevent the beads from ending up in the trash heap.

But a professor at Louisiana State University named Naohiro Kato has created biodegradable beads from algae, which he hopes will replace the plastic beads traditionally given out during Mardi Gras.

Although the biodegradable beads offer a long-term solution, the costs to manufacture the beads are much higher than their plastic counterparts. Unless those costs are reduced, Kato does not believe the biodegradable beads will be a viable solution. His company, Microalgae, is looking into cutting the costs by working with the nutraceutical industry, which produces algae-based products for the vegetarian market.

If they are successful, the plastic beads of Mardi Gras could possibly be replaced by a much more eco-friendly alternative in the near future.

Via Huffington Post

Image via Patrick Black, Jr.