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.
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?