The city of New Orleans is working towards a cleaner Mardi Gras. For a long time, the success of the pre-Lent celebration was measured by the amount of beads, alcohol and food-related trash collected from the city streets on the following day: Ash Wednesday. The day even gained a new name: “Trash Wednesday.” The mess and its stink were just expected byproducts of the party. But despite problems in recent years, especially after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become better equipped to handle waste. Sydney Denecio Torres IV founded SDT Waste and Debris Services in the wake of Katrina, implementing a new approach to waste management, especially after Mardi Gras. The company’s improved sanitation methods include street cleaning with a biodegradable, “lemony-fresh” sanitizer.
Another Mardi Gras solution has been the introduction of biodiesel-fueled vehicles on parade routes. In 2008, Kern studios, the artists involved with the creation of most of the parade floats, joined several local businesses in switching to biodiesel, a plant-based fuel that reduces harmful emissions by 56% and the carcinogenic properties of regular diesel by 94%.
And what about all those beads? The gratuitously tossed necklaces leave behind an enormous mess each year. Now the people of New Orleans have taken artistic action. Beads are crafted into lamps, wall hangings, masks and clothing. Last year, The Sierra Club teamed up with the Arc of Greater New Orleans to request that Mardi Gras beads be gathered and taken to designated posts to be recycled.
With Mardi Gras’ cleaner commitment, locals and tourists hope the success of this year’s riotous celebration (beginning Jan. 6 and ending on Mardi Gras, Feb. 24) will not be measured in waste alone.