Every year, an estimated 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras beads are dispensed during the carnival season. Usually, these beads make their way to landfills, or occupy piles of trash bags in our attics. In the last few years, efforts have been made to recycle the festive adornments. The New Orleans based nonprofit Arc of Greater New Orleans promotes a ‘Catch and Release’ bead recycling trailer that follows some parades, allowing Mardi Gras attendees to throw back their unwanted beads after the parade. The beads are then collected, sorted, and sold back to bead manufactures at a reduced price.
The local art scene also has a unique project. German born New Orleans artist Stephan Wanger holds the Guinness World Record for the largest Mardi Gras bead mosaic (42 feet wide and 8 feet tall!), and he is actively working to break his own record this year as part of an effort to benefit the Catch and Release bead recycling program. The latest endeavor is sponsored by Mardi Gras World and benefits Arc of Greater New Orleans and St. Michael Special School. Volunteers are encouraged to help out at Mardi Gras World, Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
You can drop off beads for the Arc of Greater New Orleans locally at the Neurological Rehabilitation Living Centers Louisiana, 614 West 18th Avenue in Covington.
There are a lot of neat recycled bead projects out there. You can do the simple “turn your Christmas tree into a Mardi Gras tree” by removing ornaments and hanging beads from your tree, or you can wrap beads around a cone to make your own Mardi Gras tree. You can fill a bowl or plate with beads and other Mardi Gras trinkets to make a lovely table centerpiece. Some people glue beads to various objects such as picture frames, candle holders or drink cozies to “Mardi Gras-ify” them. Sewing beads around the thread that holds them together to items of clothing can insure that you have the most unique outfit this year. These are great projects to do with the kids, but always keep in mind that small plastic items pose a choking hazard for the younger tykes!
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