A year on from Britain's move to ban microbeads from cosmetics, scientists are now waging a war on glitter in an attempt to prevent more pollution of the world's waters.
While it may seem like harmless fun, glitter is a real scourge to the environment – and particularly our oceans. Marine animals often ingest the tiny particles which lead to the contamination of the whole food chain.
What's more, these little fragments of plastic are so small that they can even make their way through water filter systems meaning more widespread damage. And as the experts remind us, these toxic microplastics will never break down naturally.
As a result, the glitter ends up in the stomachs of fish or marine mammals (and, by consequence, in yours, if you eat fish), or suspended in the ocean as part of "plastic continents." According to Dr. Trisia Farrelly of New Zealand’s Massey University, who is calling for a worldwide ban on the shiny stuff, glitter is more present than we might think:
"When people think about glitter they think of party and dress-up glitter. But glitter includes cosmetic glitters as well, the more everyday kind that people don’t think about as much."
As the researcher explains, most glitter is made from a base of aluminum and PET plastic which release hormone-disrupting chemicals into the world, which have been associated with the onset of cancers and neurological diseases.
But, according to Farrelly, there is a solution out there – and it doesn't lie with the consumer. As she explains, it's up to product manufacturers to take responsibility and find more eco-responsible alternatives:
"I’m sick and tired of consumers being help responsible for trying to avoid this stuff. I mean it’s literally impossible to. Producers need to be responsible. They need to use safer, non-toxic, durable alternatives."
As the Independent notes, cosmetics chain Lush has already switched to using synthetic, biodegradable glitter in its products.
But in the meantime, it's imperative that we spread awareness of the problem. By the year 2050, the amount of plastic in our oceans is estimated to multiply by three for a total of 1,124 million tonnes. By that point, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.
And if that isn't an incentive to ditch the glitter, we don't know what is.