The impact of glitter: is it a problem?

Is glitter a problem? A recent study showed that almost a third of fish caught in the North Sea contained micro-plastics including glitter. There have also been petitions for glitter being banned in the UK. You may be asking, should we give it up for our ocean playground?

As surfers, water-sports enthusiasts and outdoor lovers we all think about our impact on the world around us. We’ve been invested in the fight against ocean plastic since our inception, but glitter is a source of pollution that is often given little thought.

Plastic bag floating in ocean, litter and microplastics

Plastic litter fills our oceans

The issue with glitter.

Glitter is made out of plastic sheets, mostly PET and when washed away and end up in the ocean it is classified as a micro-plastic. A micro-plastic is a type of marine litter, which measures no more than 5mm in length. As micro-plastics are so small, they are often confused as plankton by many marine animals and so are consumed. This can have devastating effects on the health of sea life.

When glitter and other micro-plastics are consumed by marine life and birds, it can lead to diminished appetite, blocked digestive tracts and in the worst cases death.

When we talk about glitter it’s easy to think it’s not something we often use. But, when you break it down, the problem of glitter can be found everywhere. From our holiday decorations, to cosmetics glitter is in many every day products and product packaging.

Glitter made from PET plastic.

Glitter made from PET plastic.

What’s the alternative to plastic glitter?

There are some more eco-friendly alternatives to glitter. These biodegradable counterparts can be used in place of glitter for crafts, but this doesn’t solve the issue of glitter use in other products.

One campaign group, 38 Degrees, have created a petition calling for a ban of plastic glitter within the UK which would mean one less type of micro-plastic would end up in the ocean as litter. Many festivals are on board with giving up glitter, 61 festivals have pledged to eliminate glitter, along with other single use plastics by 2021.

Is glitter a problem for our oceans? Clean water with surfers paddling in

Is glitter a problem for our oceans?

Is a ban on glitter needed?

Glitter does contribute to the overall volume of micro-plastics in our oceans, however this isn’t the whole picture. Much of this plastic litter is from textiles, car tyres and other single use plastics like bottles and plastic cutlery. But, with over 8.3 million pieces of micro-plastics per cubic metre of water in our oceans, there may still be cause to take a closer look at glitter.

The UK, USA and Canada have all banned the production of cosmetics and personal care products containing micro-beads, but not glitter as of yet. Many of us focus on cutting out other single use plastics, like plastic bottles, cutlery and straws from our everyday lives, but this only scratches the surface of the problem.

Let us know; do you think glitter should be banned, or should we focus on other sources of ocean plastic?





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