LSU Department of Biological Sciences Professor Naohiro Kato is refining the process in which he intends to make his oft-delayed biodegradable Mardi Gras beads, the university says in an announcement.
Kato, who has been working on the new Mardi Gras beads for more than two years, has patent applications pending on various formulations and methods of making parade throws that could help prevent tens of thousands of pounds of plastic from entering the environment every year.
For one, Kato has developed a process in which to grow a species of microscopic algae called diatoms, harvest it and process it into a powder that can form throw beads and doubloons. After the fun is had, these celebratory throws will biodegrade in soil in about one to two years.
Kato received a roughly $50,000 LIFT2 grant from the LSU Board of Supervisors in 2018 to help get the beads into production. He estimates that it will cost about $40,000 to produce the first batch of 3,000 biodegradable bead necklaces or about $13 per necklace; although a second batch could be produced for $1 or less per necklace.