glitter, glitter beard

It Turns Out Your Love of Glitter Is Actually Bad for the Environment

From glitter bombs, beards, makeup and sparkly protest signs, glitter is a mainstay of modern LGBTQ culture. But U.K. scientists are urging the government to ban it because it’s apparently very bad for the environment.

If you’ve ever spilled glitter or used any on your body, than you understand that it never really completely goes away. (That’s part of the reason that glitter is sometimes called “raver scabies.”) It’s non-biodegradable and even when it’s thrown away or washed down the drain, it still ends up in our soil and water supply where it creates even more problems.

The issue, according to Josh Gabbatiss of The Independent, is that most glitter contains a plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (or PET). The PET contained in glitter is microplastic, a word that refers to any small bits of plastic that are smaller than a fifth of an inch.

Animals and marine life sometimes mistake microplastics for food and eat them. The animals either end up starving to death when their bellies fill with non-nutritious junk or ending up on our dinner plates, leaving humans to re-ingest the plastic.

While most glitter is non-toxic to humans, research has shown that PET in human and animal stomachs can break down and release hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other neurological diseases.

A group of nurseries in South England serving over 2,500 children have banned glitter and some environmental scientists are urging the British government to do the same.

But the bright and sparkly celebrations don’t have to stop entirely — thank goodness! There are also forms of environmentally-friendly glitter.

According to Mental Floss, the U.K.-based glitter manufacturer Ronald Britton sell Bio-Glitter, “a certified compostable, biodegradable glitter that won’t clog waterways or harm marine life.” The bath products from the cosmetic company Lush use biodegradable glitter made from synthetic mica. And you can even make your own safer (but not perfect) glitter using food coloring and salt.


Featured image by martinedoucet via iStock