It’s no secret that, in 2019, we’re more aware of how our beauty routines affect the environment. Whether it’s excess plastic packaging on our favourite foundation, checking the marine impact of our SPF or switching to re-fillable skincare, there are endless ways to give our beauty stash a sustainable overhaul.
Which is where glitter comes in. As the surprise culprit of wide-scale micro-plastic environmental damage, the sparkling festival go-to has a darker side.
Thankfully, you don’t have to delete your glitter lips Pinterest board any time soon, as more and more bio-degradable glitter options are hitting the shelves.
But what is eco-friendly glitter? And is it genuinely the solution to getting your sparkle on and giving the earth some love? WWF-UK Sustainable Materials Specialist, Paula Chin, explains all…
The Problem With Regular Glitter
What are the damaging effects of glitter?
‘Modern glitter is typically made from sheets of metalised plastic film, which is then cut up into tiny pieces.
‘Glitter made from plastics is classed as microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic debris. If they enter into the natural environment, they can pollute our soil and water systems and can be easily ingested by animals, which can lead to congestion of their organs and respiratory systems.’
Which products contain glitter that we might not be aware of?
‘Glitter is used for a wide range of products, including cards, toys, wrapping paper, clothing and make-up. But the small pieces of microplastic which glitter consists of can have a negative impact on wildlife, soil, water and marine environments.
‘People should think twice about whether they really need to buy glitter – a good question to ask yourself when you’re thinking about buying something is, “Do I really need this?” Is it really going to make a huge difference if you don’t use it when you consider the negative impact it could have on the environment?
‘We are starting to see a shift in perception towards glitter, with brands and retailers starting to respond to the issue and committing to stopping using the material in their products. For example, Lush cosmetics announced it would no longer use plastic-based glitter in its products and Waitrose announced it would no longer use glitter on its products including cards and wrapping paper.’
The Bio-Degradable Glitter Solution
There’s pros and cons…
Although bio-degradable plastic alternatives might seem like a more earth-friendly choice than regular glitter, it can still have its own issues when it comes to the environment.
‘Beware of claims that glitter products are biodegradable. Even branded “biodegradable” glitter may not biodegrade if left in the natural environment, and would require industrial composting.’
‘Check for the correct certification – WWF recommends the OK Compost Biodegradable certification. If you can’t find this type of glitter, try to avoid it and use natural face paints and reusable masks instead.’
What natural glitter alternatives are there?
‘Mica found in rocks and stones, for instance, is nature’s glitter and is a sustainable alternative to modern glitter.’
So why aren’t we using mica instead of glitter?
‘The switch away from natural materials to plastic will be down to costs. Plastic also gives ultimate flexibility – you can produce glitter colours which may not be found in nature. We should remember though, we shouldn’t just be switching to mining for materials which contain those sparkly mica particles, this will have other environmental consequences.’
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This article first appeared on ELLE UK.