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Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one of the world’s largest and most famous free festivals. It’s also one of the most wasteful, with thousands of revelers leaving behind red Solo cups, plastic beads, and other trash on the streets after the parades. In 2020, the city generated 1,150 tons of refuse during the festival alone. However, the Recycle Dat initiative is hoping to change that.

The Recycle Dat program is a pilot program that aims to repurpose plastic beads, beer cans, and glass bottles that litter the parade route. The initiative brings together the city of New Orleans, its tourism office New Orleans and Company, and several non-profit organizations such as Grounds Krewe and the Arc of Greater New Orleans. Recycling receptacles have been set up along the three-mile St. Charles parade route, providing parade-goers with new options for waste disposal.

Recycle Dat primarily focuses on aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic bead necklaces that krewes throw at parade spectators. Four main locations have been set up to accept the holy trinity of recyclable goods: Sacred Heart Academy, New Orleans and Company, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and Gallier Hall. There will also be 10 aluminum “can stations.” Additionally, volunteers will circulate through the crowd before the first morning parade, handing out mesh crawfish bags that can be used to collect unwanted beads.

Recycle Dat is a pilot program that aims to promote more sustainable practices and behaviors during Mardi Gras. Volunteers will work from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the next two weekends, and recycling hub and can station hours will correspond. For safety reasons, volunteers must be off the streets before night parades mobilize.

Although Recycle Dat is still just a drop in the bucket, the program is an important step towards a more sustainable Mardi Gras. Brett Davis, founder of Grounds Krewe, said that the city of New Orleans is unfortunately behind the curve in terms of sustainable practices and behaviors. Davis added that there is a river of plastic waste, and a lot of it is glowing and lighting up, making it surreal to see.

The Recycle Dat program is an example of how small-scale recycling initiatives can make a big difference. By participating in the program or reducing your own reliance on plastic, you can make a difference too. New Orleans has very liberal public drinking laws, so before leaving the house for the day, consider filling a thermos or camping pitcher with cocktails to avoid using disposable cups. With more initiatives like Recycle Dat, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

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