MAR 29, 2019 8:30 AM PDT

Glitter is a Microplastic and Bad for the Environment

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

You’ve probably heard of microplastics by now—microscopic plastic debris that has littered the ocean, infiltrated aquatic food chains, and even reached human food and water supplies. They’ve been documented in water samples from the Challenger Deep, the world’s deepest point in the western Pacific Ocean. It’s also highly likely that you’ve ingested microplastics from food or water or inhaled some from the air. 

Unfortunately for crafters and cosmetic enthusiasts alike, glitter is also a microplastic and is considered hazardous to the environment. Similar to microbeads within cosmetic products, which now have been banned in several nations, glitter particles wash down the drain and are tiny enough to pass through water filtration systems. Once they enter aquatic environments, they are eaten by plankton and consequently larger animals up the food chain.

Photo by Anderson Guerra from Pexels

In addition, plastic glitter is made from PET—polyethylene terephthalate. While generally considered safe, research has shown that PET can break down in certain circumstances and release hormone-disrupting chemicals. Scientists also warn of the danger of glitter inhalation and the eye damage it can produce. 

Environmental campaigners and scientists in the United Kingdom have been attempting to get glitter banned for a few years. Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist, believes that while consumers can choose to purchase environmentally-friendly products, “producers need to be responsible…they need to use safer, non-toxic, durable alternatives,” as she stated to The Independent in 2017.

A recent petition launched by environmental group, 38 Degrees, is bringing attention to the issue once again. The petition urges the UK’s secretary of state for the Environment, Michael Gove, to completely ban plastic glitter and luster (a coating used for ceramics). The proposed ban would include cosmetic products in addition to holiday decorations, craft supplies, and more. 

Many organizations and retailers are getting ahead of the ban and taking action. In 2018, more than 60 music festivals banned attendees from wearing glitter. Retailers such as Lush and Asos replaced glitter with natural ingredients. Grocery stores such as Aldi and Waitrose have committed to removing glitter and products containing glitter from their shelves. Just last week, a Scottish primary school became the first in the nation to ban glitter in favor of eco-friendly alternatives.
 

Sources: The Insider, Independent

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
MAR 19, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 19, 2020
The "Android" Approach to Nuclear Power
Nuclear power plants, whether you like them or not, produce a significant portion of the carbon-free electricity at the ...
MAR 21, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 21, 2020
Ergodic Theory Earned Retired Duos the Top Prize in Maths
The Abel Prize, organized by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is the world's highest honor in mathemati ...
APR 13, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 13, 2020
Are 3D-printed corals the future of coral reefs?
Can you imagine a future where the coral reefs you see on your family snorkeling trip are composed of 3D printed corals? ...
APR 17, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 17, 2020
Earth Just Had its Second Warmest March
The planet continues to set climate records, which is certainly not great news. Earlier this week, the National Oceanic ...
APR 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 29, 2020
Examining Plastic Pollution in Antarctica
While it’s not surprising that plastic pollution is reaching Antarctica, it is undoubtedly alarming considering th ...
MAY 22, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAY 22, 2020
Some Coral Turn Neon When Stressed
Corals are immobile animals, and coral reefs are considered to be the most diverse ecosystems in the sea.
Loading Comments...