Despite biodegradable glitter being marketed as better for the environment, a new study shows it still causes massive damage to aquatic ecosystems.
“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, 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.”
While regular glitter is made from PET plastic, eco-glitter is available in a bunch of varieties from different sources. One of them is eucalyptus-sourced modified regenerated cellulose (MRC) with a reflective aluminium coating and thin plastic layer. Another popular type of eco-glitter uses mica – a shiny mineral that is commonly used in cosmetics.
Over 5 weeks researchers observed how traditional, MRC and mica glitters affected an aquatic ecosystem – particularly how glitter influenced chlorophyll and root levels of plants.
All three types of glitter yielded similarly negative results. And even worse, the eco-glitter attracted New Zealand mud snails, an invasive species that steals food from local species.
Many festivals in the UK have made a promise to switch to biodegradable glitter by 2021 – however new research shows this might not be the best solution. Perhaps there might be better ways to enhance your festival outfit in other ways.