Glitter comes in many different shapes and sizes, but at its most basic, it is a collection of tiny, flat, decorative particles usually made of metalized polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Glitter has many different uses – but whether it be for clothing, crafting, cosmetic products or events, glitter is not only impossible to clean up, but it also finds its way into the natural environment and waterways one way or another.
Want a hot take?
“Eco-glitter” may sound like it's better for the environment, but in most cases it is just as bad for the environment as regular glitter.
Is Glitter “good”?
While it may look nice, these tiny particles are single-use plastics that are a source of primary microplastic pollution all around the world. This product is the definition of microplastics: plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size. Glitter also has those teeny tiny sharp edges that are coated in metal for the reflective quality. These sharp edges can be dangerous to many living things when the stuff makes its way into the natural environment by falling off clothing and objects and/or being washed off of our faces and bodies down the drain. Studies have shown that the presence of glitter in waterways can drastically decrease plant and algae growth to almost 3 times lower than in control conditions.
What kind of products are made with Glitter?
Glitter is a decorative item and can be found in a variety of products, such as clothing, arts and crafts, body paint, and cosmetics.
Are there certifications I should look out for?
There are no certifications for glitter specifically, but you can look for the Zero Plastic Inside logo to ensure that the products you’re buying are completely plastic-free.
Are there glitter alternatives I should look for?
There have been efforts to phase out PET glitter with the introduction of biodegradable alternatives, but the validity of these options is in question. Instead of containing a plastic core, these “eco-glitters'' typically use a cellulose base sourced mainly from eucalyptus trees. However, these cellulose bases are still coated in metals like aluminum for their reflectivity and then covered in a thin layer of, you guessed it, plastic. In addition, studies have shown that the effects of these eco-glitters on waterways are almost identical to traditional glitters. We hate to be party poopers, but the best thing to do is avoid glitter altogether.
Still want to learn more? Check out some of our favorite references:
- How to Celebrate Pride, Sustainably - Finch
- Tiny, shiny, and colorful microplastics: Are regular glitters a significant source of microplastics?
- Glitter litter could be damaging rivers - study - ARU