If you have unwanted Mardi Gras beads laying around, take them to the Mississippi Aquarium so they can be recycled! Beads can be dropped off at the ticket window between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day through April 2.
The Mississippi Aquarium works with the Arc of Greater New Orleans, Mississippi Coastal Research and Extension Service, and Plastic Free Gulf Coast to make this recycling of Mardi Gras beads possible. Staff from the MS Aquarium will take the beads to the Arc of Greater New Orleans where adults with intellectual disabilities work on recycling them.
This program provides employment opportunities for these individuals as they have a group of nine full-time staff and many others that are part-time.Since the program started in 2020, they have collected 170 tons of trash that are sorted and repackaged, and then in turn, made available to purchase at the recycling program’s store.
If you do recycle your Mardi Gras beads, you are undoubtedly helping the environment as beads are made of plastic that is loaded with chemicals such as bromine and chlorine and heavy metals such as lead which can seep into the soil and water. Unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico has one of the highest levels of microplastic concentrations, so we need to do what we can to protect our environment.
In addition, birds, turtles, and other marine life can become entangled in the beads, and therefore, cause injury or death. While scientists are researching ways to make biodegradable beads that will have much less of an impact on their environment, these beads are still at least 10 times as expensive as the ones we have right now. Hopefully, in the near future, we will have a type of Mardi Gras that is biodegradable and not near as expensive.