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LSU researcher creates Mardi Gras bead from algae

Since the 1960s plastic beads have been the currency of Mardi Gras, but as concern over plastic litter grows some are starting to rethink their approach to Mardi Gras’ most common accessory.

Dr. Naohiro Kato, an associate professor at Baton Rouge, is one of those people.

Accidentally discovering a way to produce biodegradable Mardi Gras beads or doubloons from oil that is produced by algae.

“The original idea for biodegradable beads came from a family friend that want to change to a greener Mardi Gras celebration,” says Dr. Kato.

“There is so much oil inside of algae I started thinking, because plastic is made from oil, why not use this plastic for Mardi Gras beads.”

This discovery could go beyond simply Mardi Gras trinkets and Dr. Kato hopes that there’s possibility for biodegradable go cups and plastic utensils.

The process is currently too expensive to fully furnish parades with beads made from algae, but Dr. Kato says that isn’t the point, the point is to have a conversation.

“You start thinking why is this throwing biodegradable beads, and then you start thinking do we still need to be throwing such a huge amount of beads.”

That mindset, however, seems to be growing and discussions of a more sustainable Mardi Gras is growing outside of science laboratories.

After a successful second year the Krewe de Canailles, Lafayette’s newest parade, is hoping to spark similar discussions.

The parades co-founder Paul Kieu says they’re “hoping to eliminate all plastic waste that goes on the ground, plastic bags, beads, cups, and other stuff.”

Starting by eliminating those plastic beads Kieu hopes it will help address some of the other Mardi Gras litter.

“It’s not just Lafayette it’s every Mardi Gras ever, there is going to be some sort of litter attached to it. We just want to make sure we’re doing right by the environment and right by the community”

The hope then is that as technology and biodegradable tech catches up, attitudes can shift and keep all the Mardi Gras fun without the Mardi Gras waste.

Daniel Phillips

Daniel Phillips

Received a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, and worked in Colorado before landing in Lafayette. Morning meteorologist for KATC, along with reporting for What's Your Story. Interested in coastal and environmental stories, and stories highlighting Louisiana's rich culture.
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