In Louisiana, LSU Department of Biological Sciences Professor Naohiro Kato is refining the process to make biodegradable Mardi Gras beads. He has patent applications pending on various formulations and methods of making the biodegradable beads that could help prevent tens of thousands of pounds of plastic Mardi Gras beads from entering the environment every year.
For one of his inventions, 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.
The biggest challenge to production is offsetting the high cost to manufacture a more environmentally sustainable bead. Kato 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. He has received some assistance from the LSU Board of Supervisors’ Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer, or LIFT2 grant. He has also been approached by angel investors.
Meanwhile, Kato is in discussion with a nutraceutical company and awaiting a contract in order to begin production of biodegradable Mardi Gras beads.