Viva La Fiesta (The Mylar, Not So Much)

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In Santa Barbara, where Erosion Control’s offices are located, we have an annual tradition called Fiesta—also known as Old Spanish Days—involving a parade and a week’s worth of music, arts and crafts shows, food, and tours of the Santa Barbara Mission and other historic buildings. One of the popular trappings of Fiesta, which took place last week, is the cascarones, or decorated, hollowed-out eggshells filled with confetti. (Cascarón is Spanish for “shell.”) Vendors sell them throughout the city and during Fiesta week celebrations people throw them, break them over each other’s heads, and so on.

But, oh, the controversy these little trinkets have generated! Several years ago, people became concerned about salmonella lingering in the eggshells. More recently, they realized that the confetti in many of the eggs is not the traditional stuff made from bits of colored paper but is in fact made of mylar—and that it’s being washed into the ocean via the storm drains.

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Other cities have a similar problem—New Orleans during Mardi Gras, with many plastic beads being thrown in the streets, comes to mind—and one way they deal with it is to arrange for street sweeping to take place the morning after a planned parade or celebration. That doesn’t catch everything, however. As a local Santa Barbara environmental organization notes in an email sent out last week, “This stuff gets away in the wind.” That group, Heal the Ocean, began working with the city a few years back to use silt fence material to keep the confetti out of the storm drains. It also continues to make people aware of the issue and encourages them to look for eggs filled with paper rather than plastic confetti.

This year another local group, Art from Scrap, led an effort to make environmentally friendly confetti using biodegradable materials such as leaves and flowers. They also dyed eggs using coloring from onionskins and beets, rather than decorating them with glued-on plastic baubles as some vendors do.

Does your area have a local event that causes environmental headaches—from trash, trespassing, or some other cause? How do you deal with it? EC_bug_web

Comments
  • Tommy G.

    Don’t worry, the public works guys will use their gasoline powered backpack blowers to blow all of that debris into a pile and then bag it all inside a 3 layered poly plastic trash bag — more wasteful use of petroleum. There was a time when confetti was actually made from paper. Along with cups, plates, drink straws, grocery bags — we need to get back to that.

    Reply
  • Richard Pecnik.

    To Tommy G. What? And cut all those beautiful trees (not like they can be grown back or anything)? We’ve gotten away from utilizing a totally re-generatable resource in the name of tree-hugging. Proper sustainable forest management, that includes cutting trees, even clear-cutting at times (gasp!) has been virtually eliminated from consideration by today’s environmental whacko groups, including the Sierra Club and all their similar brethren. Somehow they are smarter than the proven science of several thousand years of forest management practices. There’s more forest now in the continental United States than at the time of settlement by the white race. Just sayin…………

    Reply

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