Is Eco glitter really biodegradable? (13 negative effects of glitter) 

In this article, the biodegradability of eco glitter will be discussed. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is glitter?
  • Is glitter good for the environment?
  • What is eco glitter?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is biodegradability the same as eco-friendly?
  • Is eco glitter eco-friendly?
  • FAQs

Is Eco glitter really biodegradable?

Yes, eco glitter is really biodegradable because it is made from Modified Regenerated Cellulose and mica. These substances are plant-based and can be degraded by the action of microbes.

However, despite being biodegradable, it is not really eco-friendly. This is because studies have found that eco glitters cause grave ecological effects on aquatic ecosystems.

When disposed of, eco glitter encourages the growth of New Zealand mud snails that affect the food webs down there in the oceans. 

Various other researchers have also validated that eco glitters cause adverse ecological impacts on water bodies such as rivers and lakes.

What is glitter?

Glitter is an assemblage of tiny and reflective particles that are available in various sizes, colours and shapes. The most common use of glitter is to be used for decorative purposes. 

The idea of glitter might take you back to your childhood and you might also fathom an image of a 10 years old making a greeting card. The shiny substance that you used to make those greeting cards is known to be glitter.

Almost everyone likes glitter. The shiny and sparkling appearance of glitter allures anyone to admire its attractiveness and the sense of aesthetic it imparts to the material it is associated with. 

A recent study has revealed that the reason behind this affinity may be the innate likeness that man has for freshwater. Therefore, regardless of age, everyone likes glitter. But the question is: Is it all glittery after all?

Back then you may not have wondered what glitter is made of but now you must be wondering what is the reason behind all the sparkles and shimmers that make the use of glitter versatile other than decorative. 

Most glitter is made from a combination of aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Glitters may also be used in cosmetics to add a shiny feature to nails or faces. 

Is glitter good for the environment? (13 negative effects of glitter)

Glitter may be of good use in cosmetics, arts, and crafts. But the real question is: Is glitter good for the environment as well?

As it has been discussed that usually, most of the glitter is made from PET and aluminium, it is rather melancholic to ice-break that glitter, after all, is not that glittery to the environment. 

Polymers and plastics are associated with countless detrimental impacts on the environment largely because they are not degradable and are sourced from petroleum. 

That is why there is seen numerous detrimental impacts and among those there are:  

  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • Loss of life
  • Habitat destruction 
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Pollution 
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Flooding 
  • Droughts 
  • A rise in sea levels 
  • Melting of glaciers 
  • Infiltration into food chains 

These are some of the environmental impacts of materials used to make glitter. The health impacts may be: 

  • Skin allergy 
  • Necrosis in skin or tissue
  • Breathing complications 
  • Throat issues
  • Altered blood pressure 
  • Loss of vision 
  • Burning sensations 
  • Nausea 

In the light of mentioned impacts, it is finalised that glitter is not that shiny for us and our future and unsustainable use may actually dull our existence on the Earth as a species. 

What is eco glitter?

With the increased consumerism and urbanisation, the world at large witnessed many dynamic trends in terms of consumer products. Most of these products’ production skyrocketed after the industrialisation era. 

As a result, more than ever, commercial products were made and sold on massive scales. These products were economical as well as of good utilitarian value. However, back then it was very little known what was the unknown price of all those benefits. 

As science developed and sprouted its roots in environmental sciences, the academic world saw all the effects of commercial products that all of us had been oblivious of. It was seen and researched that increased consumerism cost us a lot. 

Resultantly, the human species was found to do the most damage among all species with almost infinite negative impacts on the environment, health and life in general. 

In the wake of this awakening, many endeavours began that claimed to adhere to the green gardens of sustainability. These endeavours included the formation of bio-plastics and increased use of plant-based products. 

Among these endeavours is eco glitter which is made from natural substances. We have already seen that conventional glitter is made from PET and aluminium. 

We have also discussed that the use of PET in conventional glitters puts the world and the environment at great risk. 

However, eco glitter saves us from these risks by the incorporation of natural substances. These glitters usually are made either from Modified Regenerated Cellulose that is obtained from eucalyptus trees. Other substances used to make eco glitter are ground mica from hydrous potassium or aluminium silicate minerals. 

The latter is mostly used in cosmetics while the former is used in arts and crafts and for decorative purposes to improve the overall aesthetic look. 

As per the utilitarian aspect, eco glitter delivers the same utilitarian aspect that is given off by conventional glitter and hence there is no trade-off here. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is the ability to be degraded by the action of microbes. It is the earth’s natural and sustainable way to deal with waste. 

Biodegradability is important because it makes sure that no waste is left in the environment to persist because otherwise, the accumulated waste will cause harm to life and the environment. 

Regarding biodegradability, there is a general understanding which is that natural substances are easily and more prone to degradation by microbes as compared to man-made substances. 

The structures of man-made substances render the microbes unable to degrade them and as result, they persist in the environment for a very long time. 

Biodegradability is of increased importance because otherwise there is no place to dump the waste to. If biodegradability does not happen, the whole world may become a huge pile of trash (not to mention bones and human skin in it). 

The current waste generation stands at staggering figures. Every year 2 billion tons of waste are added to the environment. More than 40% of this waste is disposed of in improper ways that create more problems for all of us. 

Now imagine, if out of the 2 billion tons of waste produced, more amounts of it are not able to degrade and may persist in the environment for as long as a thousand years. What do you think will happen?

The waste management systems will become exhausted whereas the land and resources needed to manage the waste will run out. Resultantly, the earth’s ability to sustain life will be degraded and all the species will be pushed one step further towards global catastrophe and extinction. 

Is eco glitter biodegradable?

After exploring the materials used to make eco glitter, let us dive into the main question of whether eco glitter is biodegradable or not. 

For a substance to be biodegradable, it has to be made from natural substances so that microbes break that down into simpler substances. 

It has been discussed that conventional glitter is made from PET and aluminium. PET is a non-natural polymer associated with a number of health and environmental risks. PET is also not biodegradable. 

What this implies is that conventional glitters may persist for as long as a thousand years while causing environmental degradation. 

However, eco-glitter is made from: 

  • MRC (Modified Regenerated Cellulose) 
  • Mica 

Since these substances are found in nature, it can be said that eco glitter is biodegradable. 

Is biodegradability the same as eco-friendliness?

The next big question that we need to cover is what is the difference between biodegradability and eco-friendliness. Is there any rift between the two?

Generally, it is thought that there is no difference between biodegradability and eco-friendly. However, there is. 

If a product is biodegradable, it does not necessarily mean that it is eco-friendly as well. Many factors such as how it is manufactured and disposed of decide the fate of it. 

For example, if biodegradable waste is not disposed of in a green dustbin, and instead is dumped in open waste, it still can be harmful to human health and the environment. Therefore, it can not be called eco-friendly. 

Another example can be of unsustainable production of biodegradable products. Consider a biodegradable product made from non-renewable sources (from the petrochemical industry) and agrochemicals. 

Since the production process of that biodegradable product is not sustainable, the product can not be called eco-friendly despite being biodegradable. 

Is eco glitter eco-friendly too?

As it has been seen that being biodegradable does not necessarily mean being eco-friendly too, let us explore the eco-friendly status of eco glitters. 

Sadly, there is bad news here. As per recent research, it is explored that the environmental impacts of eco glitter are still not that glittery because these eco glitters put aquatic life at risk. 

In the research, the impacts of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable glitters were studied and it was found that the impacts are similar in both cases. The most affected were primary producers. 

It was even claimed that the effect of eco glitter was harsher because eco glitter, when disposed of, encourages the growth of New Zealand mud snails that affect the food webs down there in the oceans. 

Various other researchers have also validated that eco glitters cause adverse ecological impacts on water bodies such as rivers and lakes.

Conclusion 

It is concluded that eco glitter is made from plant-based materials and hence is biodegradable. However, despite being biodegradable, it is not really eco-friendly. This is because studies have found that eco glitters cause grave ecological effects on aquatic ecosystems. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is eco glitter really biodegradable?

Are there any natural alternatives to glitter?

Yes, you can use sand, salt and sugar-based glitter as a natural and organic alternative to conventional glitter.

Does eco glitter deliver the same quality as conventional glitters?

Yes, eco glitter gives the same utilitarian value as conventional glitters. There is no significant trade-off here. 

Reference

  • Green, D. S., Jefferson, M., Boots, B., & Stone, L. (2021). All that glitters is litter? Ecological impacts of conventional versus biodegradable glitter in a freshwater habitat. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 402, 124070.
  • Perosa, M., Guerranti, C., Renzi, M., & Bevilacqua, S. (2021). Taking the sparkle off the sparkling time. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 170, 112660.
  • Yurtsever, M. (2019). Glitters as a source of primary microplastics: an approach to environmental responsibility and ethics. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 32(3), 459-478.
  • Steffen, Luana. (November 3, 2020). Eco-Glitter Is Not So Eco-Friendly, Here’s Why. Retrieved from: https://www.intelligentliving.co/eco-glitter-not-so-eco-friendly/

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