Noble Plastics, a product realization company based out of Grand Coteau, has partnered with LSU professor Dr. Naohiro Kato to create biodegradable beads to be used during the Mardi Gras season.

Dr. Naohiro Kato is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. After moving to Baton Rouge, Dr. Kato fell in love with Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras celebrations. He quickly learned of the inherent amount of trash released by the celebration into our environment, an unpleasant side effect of the Mardi Gras season. Images circulate every year of the heavy machinery passing through New Orleans’ French Quarter on Mardi Gras night to clear the tons of beads, trash, and other throws that are discarded in the street.

Depending on where they are created, plastic beads can potentially introduce hazardous chemicals into our ecosystem. Beads that get washed into our water ways can be consumed by wildlife, which we then consume in local seafood dishes. There is also damage caused to city infrastructure and the costly burden of removing the colorful polymer beads.

A few years ago, thanks to a happy accident, Dr. Kato discovered that he and his lab can produce an algae-based powder that is key to a biodegradable plastic alternative. Noble Plastics, based in Grand Coteau, LA, worked with Dr. Kato in 2018 to create a biodegradable doubloon and then again in 2020 to begin work on a set of biodegradable plastic beads. After two and a half months of design refinement, the “MADE WITH ALGAE LSU” necklaces were ready to begin molding.

The algae powder is mixed with a biodegradable PLA to be molded around a hemp string. These rare throws will not fall apart in your hand or disappear over-night, but they degrade at a much more rapid pace than traditional beads. These necklaces should degrade within 1-2 years in soil, while typical Mardi Gras throws may sit in a landfill for decades, if not centuries.

Initially, 320 thirty-two-inch biodegradable necklaces will be thrown by Krewe of Freret’s Float 1 on February 19th and the Krewe of Tuck’s Float 19 A on February 26th in New Orleans. There has been a reaction to try and preserve the limited run beads for as long as possible. This is the opposite purpose they were created for. These beads are made to break down if caught on powerlines in storm drains, trees, or buried in the dirt. Providing a much-needed alternative and relief to our natural environment.

Photo credit-Katherine Seghers, LSU


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