Mardi Gras contributes around $5.1 billion to Louisiana’s economy, but it also generates vast amounts of trash, including nearly 1,300 tons in New Orleans alone, with tens of thousands of pounds of plastic Mardi gras beads. Researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) have invented biodegradable Mardi Gras beads made from algae that could help minimize festival trash at Mardi Gras and other events across the world, according to the researchers.
When a tube of algae neglected by a lab student began generating oils needed in bioplastic manufacture, LSU Department of Biological Sciences Professor Naohiro Kato was already thinking about methods to make Mardi gras more environmentally friendly. From there, Kato devised a method for growing, harvesting, and grinding a microscopic species of algae into a fine powder capable of creating throw beads and plastic doubloons.
To be fair, the procedure remains unreasonably costly. According to Kato’s calculations, the first batch of biodegradable beads might cost up to $40,000 for 3,000 necklaces, or roughly $13 per. Kato expects that by improving the process, the cost of each necklace might be as low as $1 or less, however mass production would necessitate algal ponds the size of football fields. One possible approach, according to Kato, is to collaborate with Louisiana’s crawfish and aquaculture sectors.
Large volumes of garbage are generated during festivals and celebrations. Major music events, such as Coachella, produce almost 107 tons of waste, much of it gets unrecycled or stays in landfills for hundreds of years, according to a 2017 research. Biodegradable festival tchotchkes manufactured with Kato’s technique, on the other hand, disintegrate in the soil in one to two years. The increased use of technology in festival culture may allow us to have a little more fun while feeling a little less guilty.
“I believe we can improve and change,” Kato stated. “We have a lot of resources to make our Mardi gras celebrations more environmentally friendly and to protect our health.” Tens of millions of tons of plastic waste have been found in the world’s oceans. However, a new process for making biodegradable plastics from seaweed may eventually provide relief to the oceans.
Bioplastics are plastics that are made from biomass rather than fossil fuels. Many decompose faster than ordinary plastics, but producing them demands fertile soil and fresh water, which aren’t always available. Researchers have now discovered a way to make bioplastics out of seaweed, a far more readily available resource — a promising new approach that might reduce the burden on the world’s plastic-clogged oceans while also reducing the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels.