skip to Main Content

Shining light on the Damage of Glitter & Sustainable Alternatives

Shining Light On The Damage Of Glitter & Sustainable Alternatives

Either for an arts & crafts project or for a little sparkle in your make-up, everyone has used glitter in their life. Isn’t it fun to bedazzle your face before going to a festival? But, do you know what exactly glitter is made of? And more importantly, how damaging  it can actually be? I have done my research and got the answers for you!

What is glitter really made of?

In short, the glitters of today are a mix of plastic and aluminum.

They are made from sheets of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which are  the same plastics that you can find in items such as water bottles. The tiny pieces of plastic get the color and shine from an added ultrafine layer of aluminum. Some types of glitter even have a third layer of styrene acrylate, which is another plastic.

The bigger pieces of glitter fall under the category of microbeads, while the smaller pieces (usually under 6mm) are seen as microplastics. These fall under the category of nanoplastics, which are pieces of plastic that are so tiny that they are impossible to filter out of water.

The Environmental impact of glitter

People say that glitter never disappears. If you use it once, you will always find remnants of it. As someone who uses lots of glitter in their make-up, I can confirm this wholeheartedly. My make-up bag, my desk, and usually also my hands will be covered with specks of shiny silver when I apply my favorite eyeshadow.

But the effect of glitter is not contained to just my bedroom, it does the same to the environment. Because the microplastics in glitter can take hundreds of years to decompose, once it leaves its mark it will never leave. This is why glitters can severely  increase plastic pollution. Usually through wastewater from our homes and landfill run-off, most glitter ends up in the ocean. The organisms that live there can mistake the tiny plastics as food and eat these glitters. And because these microplastics don’t decompose, they will remain in the food chain as bigger predators eat these organisms. This way, humans end up consuming about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week because of all the microplastics within the seafood we eat and the water we drink.

But that’s not all. Because these microplastics go into the sea, they also go into the sky. As the water of the oceans gets vaporized and turns into clouds, the plastics go along with them. This makes tons of microplastics fall out of the sky with the rain, making them land on even the most remote places. 

It is likely that glitter represents only a tiny portion of these microplastics. Especially if you compare it to the impact of the amount of littered food and drink packaging. However, researchers concluded in a 2019 study that glitter might play a bigger role in microplastic pollution than previously thought, especially regarding soil health.

Sustainable Glitter alternatives

Back in the day, some people used glass as an alternative to glitter. But that is not the best suitable thing to use since that can be sharp and damage you, so you probably don’t want that near your face or your kid’s school art.

But have no fear! Biodegradable glitters also exist. They are usually plant-based fibers made from modified regenerated cellulose from eucalyptus trees. Companies like BioGlitz & Projekt Glitter use this method. According to them, these glitters are not damaging for the environment, but they do shine as much as the plastic version. These glitters look like normal glitter, but these ones actually do decompose when they come into the environment. The only downside to these glitters is that they are more expensive than regular glitter.

Beside eucalyptus, another material that gets used often for these biodegradable glitters is mica. However, most of it comes from illegal mines in India where there has been evidence found of them using child workers. So if you want to use something with mica, check if the brand uses the Responsible Mica Initiative. They are an organization that is trying to change the working conditions so that you can use products with mica that did not come from a child’s hand.

Some last tips

If you cannot afford these sustainable glitters, you can also help by managing your glitter usage. One way is to not use glitter at all, but if you don’t want to give them up like me, here are some more tips:

  1. Lessen your consumption. Think about if you really need that much glitter.
  2. Don’t wash glitter down the sink. It’s better to remove it in a way so that it doesn’t end up in the water system.
  3. Don’t use regular glitter in or near your food. This way, it’s highly likely you will consume the plastics.
  4. Use hairspray to remove glitter out of your hair. Instead of washing it off, spray some hairspray on a paper towel and pat the glitter off with that. Don’t forget to throw the paper away according to your city’s recycling regulations.

Geef een reactie

Het e-mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd. Vereiste velden zijn gemarkeerd met *

Back To Top