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After Mardi Gras, don't toss the beads

By: Don Loepp

February 13, 2008

Mardi Gras, like Cher's comeback tours, are annual events that muddy up my daily searches for plastics-related news. The problem with Cher, obviously, is that every story written about her since 1985 has a prominent mention of plastic surgery.

With Mardi Gras, the problem is the fascination that some sectors of the news media have with those cheap plastic beads.

Let's ignore why they focus on the beads and consider this important question: can the beads be recycled? This story, from the New Iberia, La., newspaper The Daily Iberian, answers the question:

Residents wanting to donate their Mardi Gras collectibles might check with the art departments at the area schools. Bobby Guidry at Allied Waste said that in the past he has heard of art departments accepting beads for upcoming projects. However, one thing residents cannot do with all those beads is fill up their recycling bins.

“While they are plastic, they are considered contaminated because of the string that holds them together,” Guidry said.


That makes sense to me, although I'm sure some imaginative plastic lumber maker could extrude a very colorful park bench or picnic table out of a waste stream of mixed colorful beads. Anyone want to give it a try?

The Iberian story has some other great alternatives to throwing the beads away. It points out that, at least locally, Goodwill takes used beads all year long, sorts them and sells them back to the public. That sounds like a very good idea.