Bad news for those of us who love sparkly stuff. Even though you thought you were saving the world one reflective particle at a time, that orange eco-glitter you sprinkled on your Halloween craft project isn’t any easier on rivers and lakes than conventional glitter. Despite the promises and inflated price tag, biodegradable glitter ends up the same way as old-school glitter — wreaking havoc on aquatic ecosystems.
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Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, U.K. ran tests to compare ordinary glitter with “eco” glitter. “Glitter is a ready-made microplastic that is commonly found in our homes and, particularly through cosmetics, is washed off in our sinks and into the water system,” said Dannielle Green, a senior lecturer in biology at ARU. “Our study is the first to look at the effects of glitter in a freshwater environment and we found that both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time.”
Regular glitter is made from PET plastic. Eco-glitter comes in a couple of varieties. One type is made from eucalyptus-sourced modified regenerated cellulose (MRC) with a reflective aluminum coating and thin plastic layer. The other main type of eco-glitter is made from mica, that shiny mineral often used in cosmetics.
In the ARU study, researchers spent 5 weeks observing how traditional, MRC and mica glitters affected an aquatic ecosystem. They were especially interested in how glitter influenced chlorophyll and root levels of plants. All three types of glitter yielded similarly negative results. Worse, the eco-glitter attracted New Zealand mud snails, an invasive species that steals food from local species.
Sixty U.K. festivals had already announced a switch to biodegradable glitter by 2021. But this new research threatens to steal the sparkle from eco-conscious party people and render an already bleak 2020 even drabber. The U.K. supermarket chain Morrisons is axing glitter from its own brand before Christmas. So don’t expect any sparkle on your holiday cards, ornaments and present bags. If you just can’t handle ditching glitter entirely, try making your own with sugar or salt and non-toxic, natural food coloring.
Via The Guardian
Image via Sharon McCutcheon