ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a huge celebration and a big mess. City officials used to brag about how much garbage they collected as a measure of success. But all that trash is bad news for the city's storm drains, which are prone to flooding.
Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO says this year, there's a new invention to keep Mardi Gras beads out of the sewers.
TEGAN WENDLAND, BYLINE: This is a Mardi Gras parade. As the floats approach, the crowd screams for beads.
WENDLAND: A shiny purple one flies past Richard Ponthier and hits the ground.
Aren't you going to grab that one, dude?
RICHARD PONTHIER: No. It's on the ground. Don't mess with that (laughter). You know, once it touches the ground, it's too dirty.
WENDLAND: And that's a problem. The city has cleanup crews to pick up most of the beads and trash, but a lot of them still end up in the gutters. They recently pulled out almost a hundred thousand pounds of old beads.
DANI GALLOWAY: It was kind of a smack in the face as to how much debris there was in the drain.
WENDLAND: Dani Galloway, the head of the Department of Public Works, is on a mission this Mardi Gras - keep the storm drains clean. For the two weeks of parades, she walks the streets with cleanup crews to check on things.
GALLOWAY: Hey, you want to go up Martin Al (ph), go on the next off Martin Al?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right.
WENDLAND: And she came up with a solution.
GALLOWAY: It was simple as a visit to Home Depot to try to figure out what we could do that will be obviously low-cost, a fairly quick turnaround.
WENDLAND: They experimented with wire and two-by-fours and eventually came up with a combination of wire grates and big orange sandbags called Gutter Buddies.
WENDLAND: Rudimentary, but they seem to be working. Willie Noveck has his chair set up right next to one. Holding his boxed wine in one arm, he looks down at the trash by his feet.
WILLIE NOVECK: They're catching, I guess, a lot of plastic bags. They're definitely doing something.
WENDLAND: The city went to great lengths to invent and install these things. A simpler way to stop the problem might be to just stop throwing beads.
NOVECK: Stop throwing beads? You cannot be serious about that. That's ridiculous.
WENDLAND: He says he has a better idea.
NOVECK: Get both hands out. Stop drinking. And let's catch all these beads so we don't have this problem.
WENDLAND: But as long as people don't catch them all, the Gutter Buddies will. For NPR News, I'm Tegan Wendland in New Orleans.
(SOUNDBITE OF HOT 8 BRASS BAND'S "BOTTOM OF THE BUCKET")
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