LSU Professor creates biodegradable Mardi Gras beads

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Carnival Sesaon is in full swing, but what happens to the beads and dubloons when the parades are said and done? Oftentimes, those items sit in landfills for years. Now, they don't have to.

LSU professor Naohiro Kato developed and patented a biodegradable Mardi Gras bead and dubloon prototype made from algae.

"We have great resources to make our Mardi Gras celebrations more sustainable and to protect our environment," Kato said.

The glory of this invention is that it was born out of a mistake.

"My student was supposed to come into the lab three nights in a row to move our test tube samples of algae from the centrifuge to the freezer, but one night he forgot," Kato said.

The day after that mistake, Kato found a glob of algae accumulating oils, which is one of the ingredients used for bioplastic production. That discovery partnered with a discussion he had with friends, sparked an idea.

"I have a family friend in New Orleans. They wanted to make the Mardi Gras celebration more green," Kato said.

He created 100 percent biodegradable Mardi Gras beads and dubloons that deteriorate quickly.

"We would save the environment from a lot of trash that's there every Mardi Gras," grad student Ruth Ndathe said.

Since the biodegradable beads exist, why isn't it being used?

"The problem is, it costs about three times more," Kato said.

While it currently costs more to produce it than the regular plastic beads, Kato said the cost of production could go down if they take the work out of the lab and create the algae on a large-scale.

"I think, even thought it might not be very profitable, in the long-run, it'll be very profitable for the earth," LSU grad student Gabela Nelson said.

Considering New Orleans spent seven million dollars to clean out 93,000 lbs of plastic beads from catch basins, Kato said it would make sense to invest the money up front to avoid that problem.

In order to make the beads profitable, he needs to produce algae on a large-scale such as a pond the size of a football field. He said Louisiana is a great place to do that since the state's crawfish, rice and aquaculture industries already have the needed infrastructure.

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