Next time you saw a beautiful young lady all sparkly and shiny, you know what it means. While it may be a feast for your eyes, it sure isn’t one for the environment. A mention of glitter means colourful preschool and kindergarten projects for most of us. This sparkly material is also commonly seen in everyday grown-up products like makeup, decorations, and even swanky phone cases. While the fairy-dust-like substance is great for lifting our spirits, it is not so good for the environment. Anyone who has touched glitter knows that just a small amount can get everywhere and stay everywhere.
Glitter is made of a polymer known as Mylar and its size, normally about a millimeter across, makes it a microplastic. The shiny flecks are made using aluminium and PET, a plastic which does not decompose for decades. What makes glitter, and other microbeads used as exfoliators in face scrubs and soaps or to add texture and colour to products like toothpaste and lip balms dangerous, is its diminutive size. Indeed, research has shown that a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. Measuring less than five millimeters in length, the microplastics pass unfiltered through sewage treatment systems, into rivers and canals and eventually, the ocean, posing a potential threat to aquatic life. The fear is that sea life ends up consuming microplastics, which in turn introduces it into the human food chain.
In one of the studies it was discovered that one in three fishes caught in Great Britain had ingested microplastics. A 2015 paper published in the journal American Chemical Society found evidence of polymer in the tiny zooplankton that form the base of the oceanic food chain. A more recent study by researchers at the State University of New York examined 12 different kinds of salt, including ten sea salts, and found all contain microplastics.
Biodegradable glitter options, by definition, don’t have the same problems because they’re designed not to linger for quite so long in the environment. One company, called Bioglitz, markets plant based glitter. That glitter has one other benefit because it doesn’t have the same ingredients as traditional glitter, it also won’t linger in your home.
Whether the solution may be using eco-friendly glitter or cutting it out entirely, our kids can have a very happy childhood without having glitter.
“EVERYTHING THAT GLITTERS ISN’T GOLD AND INERT!”