Who doesn’t love glitter? So many of us have used it and enjoyed seeing it sparkle. But there is a downside, an environmental one.
Most forms of glitter are not just plain aluminium but aluminium sandwiched between layers of plastic.
These microplastics get washed into waterways – streams, rivers and the sea.
Microplastics affect animals through:
- starvation because the ingested plastics sit in the stomach
- accumulation in tissues of predators (and that includes us)
- decreases abundance of water plants and microscopic algae
Plastics affect us at a normal level too as they can mimic oestrogen.
Can we use bio-alternatives?
Well, on the face of it, yes… but there can even be problems there. A study in Norfolk found that cellulose-based glitters decreased the abundance of common plants (such as duckweed) and microscopic algae
The cellulose biodegradable form also increased the abundance of a non-native snail.
You can find some products (like makeup) which contain the natural material mica (the shiny bit you see in granite rocks), though you may want to think about whether it should be mined for this anyway and what environmental consequences are.
What can we do?
Choose not to buy products that contain traditional glitter – get your children onside and make it a game to find fun things to do crafts with that are animal- and plant-friendly.
Opt instead for the cellulose-based glitters – and when tidying up, put it in the bin, not down the sink.
If you like glitter in your makeup, you can use ones that contain the natural material mica.
Educate ourselves about the effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the environment.
Educate other people.