Sparkles are fun, but they are escaping into our waterways.
Glitter should be banned over environmental impact, scientists warn. Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University in New Zealand, has called for a global ban.
“All glitter should be banned because it’s microplastic and all microplastics leak into the environment,” Farrelly says.
Microplastics can pollute marine environments, leech chemicals into the water and pose harm to marine life if they are ingested. After you’ve scrubbed your face or brushed your teeth, the tiny plastic beads go down the drain. The concern is that microbeads may not be filtered through treatment filtration systems and end up in our lakes and oceans, where they may be mistaken for food by small fish and other wildlife.
“Plastic glitter, like microbeads, are too small to be caught in water treatment plants, and also ends up in the ocean. There’s no real difference between that sparkly, shiny glitter in your makeup and those hated microbeads, and they’re both threats to our planet.” says body paint brand Body FX.
Endangering animals is only part of the equation. A study from Environmental Science and Technology found that microplastics act something like a lifeboat for bacteria. So potentially harmful microbes are better able to survive in aquatic environments. Combine that with the chemicals used to create the plastic leaching out over time and the real problem starts to make sense. This is why Dr. Sherri Mason, Professor of Chemistry at SUNY Fredonia calls microplastic “a little poison pill”.
Glitter is made from plastic sheets and used in a wide array of products, including cosmetics. When washed down the drain, glitter becomes a subset of marine plastic litter known as microplastic. Microplastics, which measure less than five millimeters in length, are found throughout the world’s oceans, from the surface to the deep seafloor. They are consumed by plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds, and other marine life. Plastic bits collect in birds’ stomachs, where they can cause them to die of starvation. Scientists have become increasingly concerned about its effects on fish and other marine life.
The greatest volume of microplastics comes from two sources: plastic trash broken down into flea-sized bits by UV rays and wave action, and manufactured plastic beads that are added to cosmetics and personal care products such as face wash and toothpaste. These microbeads do not degrade and in all probability will exist in the oceans for hundreds of years. Scientists estimate more than 8 trillion microbeads enter U.S. waters daily.
The United States banned production of cosmetics and personal care products that contain microbeads as of last July. The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 prohibits the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads. This new law also applies to products that are both cosmetics and non-prescription (also called “over-the-counter" or "OTC") drugs, such as toothpastes.
Luckily there’s now a solution and we don’t have to kill the planet just to sparkle. Starting in 2018, Trina Merry will be using biodegradable glitter from Body FX on all your projects. It’s made from 100% biodegradable material, and is just as shiny as the plastic variety.
What do you find most surprising about this research? What are 3 fun projects you’d like to take on using the new biodegradable glitter? Leave your comments below or drop us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.