WATCH: The Mardi Gras After Party: Plastic Pollution and a Way Forward

(Hannah Beir and Poonam Narotam/MEDILL)

By Hannah Beir and Poonam Narotam
Medill Reports

After a pandemic-induced hiatus in 2021, the Mardis Gras celebrations in New Orleans came back this year. And they brought the trash back too.

The Department of Sanitation cleared 1,150 tons of trash off the streets following the Mardi Gras parades and parties in February, according to Sanitation Director Matt Torri. A lot of this came from the “throws” various krewes toss from floats — everything from plastic bead necklaces to other plastic items, such as frisbees and hula-hoops.

Though the city cleans as much as possible, many throws still make their way through the city storm drains and into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the food system in an already environmentally fragile community.

But the throws are a tradition the krewes just can’t quit. So how can Mardi Gras parades be more sustainable without risking the spirit of the celebrations?

Medill reporters traveled to New Orleans to speak with local activists, environmental experts and nonprofits working towards a more sustainable Mardi Gras.

Reporting supported by Keva Peters Jr. and LEDE New Orleans.

Hannah Beir is a video and broadcast graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @hannahbeir

Poonam Narotam is a health, science and environment graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @namsorama.