Mardi Gras is a cherished cultural tradition of Louisiana, but it comes at a cost. Last year, 93,000 pounds of plastic beads clogged drainage systems in New Orleans.
LSU professor, Naohiro Kato, is coming up with a plan to make Mardi Gras better for the environment. Since 2012, he has been formulating biodegradable beads, and this summer the first prototype will finally be complete. The collection consists of beads and dabloons made from bioplastic, where the main component is microalgae.
Microalgae can be repurposed for many things, including making medicines and supplements. Kato plans to use leftover microalgae from medicine to compensate for the high production cost of the beads, which will cost around 3 to 10x more to produce than regular beads. According to Kato, Louisiana would be the best place to grow the microalgae in large amounts because of the humidity.
"It's not impossible, but it will be challenging," says Kato.