As a former gymnast and cheerleader I think it’s fair to say that, for a number of years, glitter literally ran through my veins. Ok, maybe not literally. But we would regularly douse ourselves in it from head to toe – and still find it shimmering away in our hair (and elsewhere) weeks later.
It wasn’t until recently that I started realising that my favourite sparkly substance actually had an impact on the environment – more specifically, the ocean and marine life. And as we approach New Year’s Eve, the most glittery time of all, I decided to do a bit of investigating before showering myself in sparkles once again.
Why is glitter bad for the environment?
A number of nurseries in the UK have recently banned glitter because of its environmental impact – and there’s even been calls for a global ban. But why exactly is it bad? Well, what you might not be aware of is that glitter is actually made from plastic sheets – so when it gets washed down the drain, it ends up in the ocean as a microplastic.
Measuring less than 5mm in length, microplastics can be found everywhere from the ocean’s surface to the deep sea floor – and they don’t ever break down. This means they end up being ingested by a range of marine life, from plankton to seabirds. And as this plastic accumulates in their stomachs, they can eventually die of starvation.
More than a quarter of all fish now contain plastic. And as fish is currently the primary source of protein for almost a fifth of the global population, microplastics can end up being subsequently consumed by humans – with unknown effects on health. With a ban on microbeads coming into force in the UK next year, glitter could well be next on the no-go list.
Luckily for the glitter lovers among us, a number of brands around the world have found a way of producing biodegradable eco-friendly glitter made from plant cellulose, which breaks down in soil and naturally degrades in seawater. So if you’re thinking of dazzling yourself up this NYE, make sure your glitter’s green. There’s plenty of options available, whether you’re in Manchester, Melbourne or beyond.
Disco Dust London have also just launched a new biodegradable range – so make sure you get yourself some sensible sparkle…
Based in Aus or NZ?
If you’re down under for New Year, check out Australian brands The Sparkle Party and The Naked Shimmer (nudity optional), who are taking the litter out of glitter, and are both available to buy in time for NYE on Etsy.
There’s also Melbourne based Glitterazzi, the creators of the #NoGlitterLitter movement. As if that wasn’t enough, all these brands offer vegan friendly and cruelty free products, so you can sparkle away in the sun guilt free.