Is edible glitter biodegradable? (5 ingredients of edible glitter) 

In this article, the biodegradability of edible glitter will be discussed. It will also be assessed that edible glitter is really safe for the environment and human health. Biodegradability will also be deliberated while shedding light on the importance and need for biodegradable products. Frequently asked questions will also be discussed.

Is edible glitter biodegradable?

Yes, edible glitter is biodegradable because it is made from natural substances including sugar, corn starch, food colours and polysaccharides such as maltodextrin. 

Edible glitter is safe to eat provided proper labelling is done. Non-toxic glitter must not be consumed as it may lead to health complications. However, excessive use of edible glitter must be avoided as it may cause health issues too.

What is edible glitter?

Before the biodegradability of edible glitter can be deliberated, it is important to first know what edible glitter is in the first place. 

Edible glitter, as the name suggests, is the glitter used for the decoration of edible stuff such as cakes, pastry, doughnuts, coffee, or brownies. 

Edible glitter is used to either create or augment the aesthetic sense of the food or beverage to make it look more attractive while making the business more lucrative. 

Edible glitter has become a common norm and the absence of it makes it feel that there is something missing. All the major confectionaries make use of glitter for decorative and aesthetic purposes. 

It is claimed that the use of glitter has deep roots in human biology. The innate wantedness to strive for freshwater is what entices us towards the consumption of food materials that are decorated with glitter because of the similarity in appearance. 

What is edible glitter made of? (5 ingredients of edible glitter) 

Before any stance can be built on edible glitter, it is very important to note the substances that are involved to make edible glitter. 

The composition of something can speak tons about any material. The nature of substances used to make something will reveal the true essence of that product. 

For example, if a product is made from natural ingredients it reveals the affinity that product has with nature implying there is little rift and very few negative impacts of that product on the environment or human health. 

As per the regulatories, edible glitter is made from: 

  • Sugar acacia 
  • Colour additives (FDC colours)
  • Corn starch 
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mica based pigments 

These are some of the most used ingredients used to make edible glitter. This is different from other conventional glitters and eco glitters which are made from PET and cellulose respectively. 

What is glitter in general?

Glitter is an assemblage of tiny and reflective particles that are available in various sizes, colours and shapes. 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. 

As 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. 

Studies have excavated almost innumerable negative impacts of glitter on the environment and human health. These may be: 

  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • Loss of life
  • Habitat destruction 
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Pollution 
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Skin allergy 
  • Necrosis in skin or tissue
  • Breathing complications 
  • Throat issues
  • Altered blood pressure 
  • Loss of vision 
  • Cancers
  • Neurological anomalies 
  • Reproductive damages 

In response to this, there is eco-friendly glitter found in the market. This may be made from 

  • MRC (Modified Regenerated Cellulose) 
  • Mica 

Owing to the naturality of these substances, it is expected that the negative impacts of glitter ought to be curbed in this way. However, recent research has indicated otherwise. 

It was found that the effects of eco glitter were as hazardous as conventional glitter on aquatic ecosystems and even worse. 

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. 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. 

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 edible glitter biodegradable?

As sufficient background has been built, let us move on to the main question of the biodegradability of edible glitter. 

It has been discussed that natural substances like animal waste or plant waste are biodegradable because they are natural while being compatible with microbes’ ability to degrade. 

On the other hand, man-made substances are not biodegradable as microbes can not break down the structure of such substances. 

It also has been discussed that edible glitter is made from natural substances like cornstarch, sugar, colour additives and maltodextrin; it can be said that edible glitter is biodegradable. 

The biodegradability of edible glitter also makes sense because if something has to be consumed by humans, it has to be biodegradable, otherwise, it would not be certified as edible. 

Is edible glitter safe to consume?

It is a question of fervent curiosity that it is safe to consume edible glitter because we all know that glitter is not gold. 

Time and again, humanity has been baffled by the subtle differences and discrepancies found in mother nature and the consumer market. 

For example, take the case of biodegradable packing peanuts. It was assumed that since these packing peanuts were made from plant-based materials, it was okay to consume them. What was not taken into account was that those peanuts were not meant to be consumed but rather used. 

There is no nutritional content in packing peanuts and more than that, the packing peanuts are not made in compliance with food safety regulations and protocols. 

Therefore, just because something is termed edible, it should not be assumed that it is safe to eat before any sort of scrutiny and deliberation. 

In our case of edible glitter, it is said that it is safe to consume edible glitter as it has now become an inevitable part of our bakeries and confectionaries. 

However, it should not render us less vigilant. We need to be careful and watchful of proper tags and health content. If any glitter is labelled as ‘non-toxic’, it does not mean that it is edible and must be avoided. 

Some manufacturers take advantage of this guise and fool people who are not observant of this rather subtle discrepancy. 

Before you consume edible glitter, make sure it is labelled as edible. Also, make sure to rummage around the health contents and ingredients of edible glitter. 

If there is only a non-toxic label instead of an edible label, what this really implies is that you should not consume that because it could be detrimental to your health. 

Is edible glitter glittery for the environment as well?

We have discussed the link between edible glitter, biodegradability and human health. We have seen that edible glitter is biodegradable since it is made from natural ingredients. 

We have also seen that edible glitter is also safe for human consumption, as laid out by FDA provided that proper labelling is done and deliberated. 

Now, let us explore what is the relationship between edible glitter and the environment. 

Situationally, this relationship is dependent on multiple factors that may drive the relationship both ways. That is because, how edible glitter is produced, used and disposed of are some of the factors that decide whether it is sustainable too or not. 

Sustainability can be defined as being considerate of the present needs while also being thoughtful of future needs. If the current consumption is such that it will deprive us of something in the future, it simply means that the product is not sustainable. 

Edible glitter also has to be made in sustainable ways and quantities so that it can be termed as eco-friendly. If excessive amounts of edible glitter are made, it means excessive pressure is put on the source (plants). 

This could harm the crops and devoid land of its irrigational capacities. The increased use also implies an increased tendency to use agrochemicals to meet those needs. 

Also, the process used to make edible glitter is also important. It is mandatory that renewable resources must be employed and the production facility must strive to be carbon neutral and zero waste. 

Many contemporary endeavours such as Ecos products or Ecover company can be cited in this regard. 

Currently, the production of edible glitter is not that eco-friendly because in most cases, non-renewable resources are used. These sources are from fossil fuels. The use of fossils leads to many environmental problems like global warming, change in weather conditions, deforestation et cetera. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that edible glitter is biodegradable because it is made from natural substances including sugar, corn starch, food colours and polysaccharides such as Maltodextrin. 

Edible glitter is safe to eat provided proper labelling is done. Non-toxic glitter must not be consumed as it may lead to health complications. However, excessive use of edible glitter must be avoided as it may cause health issues too. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is edible glitter biodegradable?

Is edible glitter FDA approved?

Yes, edible glitter is termed as safe to be consumed by the Food and Drug Authority.

What is the nutritional content of edible glitter?

The nutritional content of edible glitter is as minute as the size of those shimmers. There are no calories. In addition, edible glitter is sugar and carbohydrate-free. 

Reference 

  • Pandit, K. (2016). Sparkling everywhere. Early Years Educator, 17(9), xiv-xvi.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • US Food & Drug Administration. (November 5, 2021). To Eat or Not to Eat: Decorative Products on Foods Can Be Unsafe. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/eat-or-not-eat-decorative-products-foods-can-be-unsafe

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