BATON ROUGE - A Baton Rouge man is trying to tackle the waste problem that comes along with 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras beads being thrown each year.
Marcus Ciko, a bead fanatic, wants to create a biodegradable Mardi Gras bead. In 2014, the city of New Orleans cleaned up more than 1,700 tons of trash during Mardi Gras. That's 10 times the weight of an average house.
"They contain lead, cadmium, phthalates and other endocrine disruptors," said Ciko. "This is getting in our waterways. It's getting into our landfills, and our children are putting them in their mouths at the parades. So we need to come up with a better solution for what the beads are made from."
Street sweepers try their best to clean up the beads that are not caught. However, many beads waste away. China dominates the multi-million dollar bead industry by making the popular throws from petroleum byproducts. Instead, Ciko plans to create biodegradable beads from plant matter. He already has a formula in mind that would use leftovers from sugar cane harvesting.
"I think we really need to do some kind of post-industrial green revolution where we switch our manufacturing processes and our product consumption to make it more in tune with the environment instead of poisoning it," Ciko says. "Just use materials again that are readily available."
Debra Fournet, who owns Party Paradise in Baton Rouge, says she is onboard with anything that would make the purple, green and gold of Mardi Gras more "green."
"I think that's an awesome idea. I hate just seeing them all go into waste, but I would be curious to know what they were using to make it with," she said.
Ciko says some parade krewe captains have already shown interest in his idea. He'll meet with them to gauge interest after Mardi Gras and also plans to start a fundraising campaign to pay for the equipment needed to make the biodegradable beads.