Whether you’ve already decked the halls with Christmas decorations or you’re about to, chances are you’ll be laying on the sparkle. Because Christmas = Glitter.
But while, there’s no doubt, it’s the sparkly stuff is super pretty, glitter is actually helping to destroy the planet.
Remember the heartbreaking scene on Blue Planet where a mother whale nursed her dying calf? Well environmentalists believe the calf was likely killed by microplastics, or tiny fragments of plastic in the sea. And that’s exactly what glitter is.
The glitter situation is getting so serious and having such an impact on marine wildlife that scientists have now called for a blanket ban on the substance.
It follows a study, led by Professor Richard Thompson, revealing that plastic was found in a third of all fish caught in the UK.
Some estimates place the number of microplastics in the world’s ocean at up to 51 trillion fragments in total.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Thompson told The Independent: “I was quite concerned when somebody bought my daughters some shower gel that had glitter particles in it. That stuff is going to escape down the plughole and potentially enter the environment.”
While a ban on microbeads, found in cosmetics will come into force in the UK next year, some experts believe glitter could be an overlooked factor in the wider problem of plastic pollution in our seas.
“When people think about glitter they think of party and dress-up glitter,” Dr Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at New Zealand’s Massey University explained. “But glitter includes cosmetic glitters as well, the more everyday kind that people don’t think about as much.”
One chain of nurseries in the UK is so concerned about the impact of glitter on the environment they have banned glitter in all their premises. Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops Day Nurseries – a chain of 19 nurseries across the South of England said she took the step after realising glitter is a microplastic, which can harm the environment.
“You can see when the children are taking their bits of craft home and there’s glitter on the cardboard, it blows off and into the air and on to the road, and it’s only a tiny little bit, but we’ve got 3,000 children and they’re all doing Christmas craft at the moment, so we’ve got glitter everywhere,” she said.
“There are 22,000 nurseries in the country, so if we’re all getting through kilos and kilos of glitter, we’re doing terrible damage, and these children, the world is for them.”
Though Professor Thompson believes an outright ban on glitter might not be necessary, he believes we need to consider the likelihood the substance will end up in the environment.
Thankfully, eco-friendly glitter is here to save our Christmas and festivals offering a viable replacement that breaks down quickly and won’t end up in the food chain.
The cosmetics chain Lush has replaced glitter in its products with synthetic, biodegradable alternatives. And the BBC reports that Stephen Cotton, a British scientist, is helping to create a pioneering eco-glitter made from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminium.
Sophie Awdry has also set up her own company selling eco-glitter with one of her friends after learning about its effects on the environment a few years ago.
“In the summer I’d be wearing it nearly every weekend,” she told Newsbeat.
“But then I found out biodegradable glitter existed a few years ago and suddenly the penny dropped that the rest was plastic.
“A lot of people don’t actually realise and that’s the problem,” she said.
Farrelly believes that consumers will welcome a shift to non-plastic glitter products because for the most part consumers are becoming “more environmentally and justice-aware and are calling for more honest, transparent labelling. They want to know what’s in their products and where they come from.”
So you can still get your glitter-on this Christmas, summer, anytime, so long as it’s eco-friendly glitter you’re sparkling with.
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