The Path of A Bead

The Path of A Bead

Though they seem ubiquitous today, plastic beads are not a significant part of Mardi Gras' unique multi-century cultural history.

Yes, each year, Krewes now through an estimated 2,500 tons of beads in Orleans Parish alone, but this volume has only been reached in the last couple of decades.

Though they seem ubiquitous today, plastic beads are not a significant part of Mardi Gras' unique multi-century cultural history.

Yes, each year, Krewes now through an estimated 2,500 tons of beads in Orleans Parish alone, but this volume has only been reached in the last couple of decades.

Like all petroleum based plastic, most beads begin with oil from the Gulf of Mexico, the middle East, and elsewhere around the globe.

While the vast majority of Mardi Gras beads begin life in oil fields, in recent years, efforts have been made to make beads out of sustainable materials, such as micro-algae. 

Like all petroleum based plastic, most beads begin with oil from the Gulf of Mexico, the middle East, and elsewhere around the globe.

While the vast majority of Mardi Gras beads begin life in oil fields, in recent years, efforts have been made to make beads out of sustainable materials, such as micro-algae. 

Next, the oil is processed into Polystyrene & Polyethylene pellets.

Once the pellets are formed, they are packaged and shipped to China, where the vast majority of all Mardi Gras beads are made.

Next, the oil is processed into Polystyrene & Polyethylene pellets.

Once the pellets are formed, they are packaged and shipped to China, where the vast majority of all Mardi Gras beads are made.

Chinese factories turn the polyethylene and polystyrene pellets into plastic Mardi Gras throws

In addition to these chemicals, many plastic beads thrown during Mardi Gras and at celebrations around the country also contain concerning levels of lead, arsenic, and flame retardant chemicals. Studies have shown that flame retardants disrupt our body’s endocrine (hormonal) system. Researchers state that these findings show “strong evidence that these beads are made from recycled e-waste plastic”.

Chinese factories turn the pellets into plastic Mardi Gras throws

In addition to these chemicals, many plastic beads thrown during Mardi Gras and at celebrations around the country also contain concerning levels of lead, arsenic, and flame retardant chemicals. Studies have shown that flame retardants disrupt our body’s endocrine (hormonal) system. Researchers state that these findings show “strong evidence that these beads are made from recycled e-waste plastic”.

Today, roughly 25 million pounds of beads are thrown every year, despite the beads not becoming a tradition until the 1970s

Iit is estimated that those beads contain around 920,000 pounds of mixed chlorinated and brominated flame retardants, and up to 10,000 pounds of lead.

Today, roughly 25 million pounds of beads are thrown every year, despite the beads not becoming a tradition until the 1970s

It is estimated that those beads contain around 920,000 pounds of mixed chlorinated and brominated flame retardants, and up to 10,000 pounds of lead.

Only 2 percent of Mardi Gras beads are recycled

The City Of New Orlean’s spends millions of dollars cleaning up after parades. Every year, 150 tons of discarded beads end up in local land fills or waterways!

Only 2 percent of Mardi Gras beads are recycled

The City Of New Orlean’s spends millions of dollars cleaning up after parades. Every year, 150 tons of discarded beads end up in local land fills or waterways!

Is it time to rethink Mardi Gras throws?

The carbon footprint from the ocean crossings and transcontinental shipping of the beads to New Orleans is significant enough! 

Since the inevitable destination of chemical laden beads are landfills and/or waterways, is it time to rethink what is thrown?

Pictured here is a tarball leftover from the BP oil spill – notice the similarities to the degrading plastic beads!

Is it time to rethink Mardi Gras throws?

The carbon footprint from the ocean crossings and transcontinental shipping of the beads to New Orleans is significant enough! 

Since the inevitable destination of chemical laden beads are landfills and/or waterways, is it time to rethink what is thrown?

Pictured here is a tarball leftover from the BP oil spill – notice the similarities to the degrading plastic beads!

Interested in learning more about the toxicity of Mardi Gras throws?

Below is a link to a collaborative study conducted with The Ecology Center investigating the toxic composition of Mardi Gras throws

Interested in learning more about the toxicity of Mardi Gras throws?

Below is a link to a collaborative study conducted with The Ecology Center investigating the toxic composition of Mardi Gras throws

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