Is glitter biodegradable? (9 applications of glitter)

This article shall answer the question, “is glitter biodegradable?”.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Components of glitter.
  • The properties and applications of glitter.
  • Future of glitter.
  • Eco-friendliness of glitter.

Is glitter biodegradable?

No, glitter is not biodegradable. Glitter is made from a combination of aluminum and synthetic plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate. Biodegradation occurs in organic substances that can be acted upon by bacteria and fungi.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which organic materials from plants and animals are broken down by such agents as light, temperature, water, radiation, bacteria, and fungi into small particles which are not toxic to the environment.

Water.

This causes biodegradation by carrying the materials and causing mechanical breakdown.

Sunlight.

Some light wavelengths cause the mechanical breakdown of organic materials into smaller particles.

Light contains different radiations at different wavelengths.

Radiations such as ultraviolet radiation oxidize organic materials which cause them to disintegrate into small particles which are then degraded by microorganisms.

Temperature.

Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.

Bacteria.

Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.

Fungi.

They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

Steps of biodegradation.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct steps:

  • Biodeterioration.
  • Bio-fragmentation.
  • Assimilation.

Biodeterioration.

This is the first stage of biodegradation.

Organic materials are mechanically broken down by light, water, and temperature into smaller particles that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.

Bio-fragmentation.

This is the second stage of biodegradation.

Organic matter is broken down by bacteria and fungi, either aerobically or anaerobically.

Water, carbon dioxide, methane gas, energy, and small biomass are produced depending on the type of process.

Assimilation.

It’s the last stage of biodegradation.

Involves the uptake of biomass produced into the body system of the bacteria or fungi to be used in various biological processes.

Advantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several advantages which include the following:

  • It cleans the environment of the wastes.
  • Applicable to a wide range of products.
  • It can be triggered through composting
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Results to soil enrichment with nutrients.
  • Used to produce bioenergy.
  • Biodegradation through fermentation has led to the manufacturing of drugs.
  • It leads to the production of organic acids and alcohol.

Disadvantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several disadvantages which include:

  • It leads to wear and tear of organic-based materials such as clothes.
  • It takes a very long time to degrade waste.
  • When used to produce bioenergy, it requires a lot of biomass.
  • It is easily affected by contaminants such as oil and antibiotics.
  • It is only limited to organic matter

What is glitter?

This is a compound made up of small and reflective particles that contain different shapes, colors, and sizes.

The glitter particles reflect light at different angles, causing sparkling.

Glitter is usually made from synthetic plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate and metallic elements such as aluminum.

Other reflective metallic materials can be used in place of aluminum to add sparkling abilities. These metals include titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and bismuth oxychloride.

Glitter can also be made from other materials such as mica and malachite.

What are the properties of glitter?

The following are the properties of glitter.

  • Glitter reflects light at different angles, causing their surfaces to sparkle.
  • Glitter contains magnetic properties.
  • It is non-biodegradable.

What are the uses of glitter?

The following are how glitter is used:

  • Glitter is used to making nail polish in cosmetology.
  • It is used to make fishing lures 
  • It is used to make sparkling furniture.
  • Edible glitter made from gum Arabic is used in culinary arts.
  • It is used in arts to color surfaces.
  • It is used to make optically variable inks.
  • Glitter is used in forensics, identical glitters prove that the suspect was at the crime scene.
  • Glitter is used in many cultures as a sign of fashion and class.
  • It is used as a tool to help blur gender lines.
  • It is used to make glitter bombing, an item used by protesters.

What are the components of glitter?

Glitter is usually made from a combination of a metallic element and microplastics. The most popular metal element used is aluminum and the microplastics used are mostly polyethylene terephthalate.

Aluminum.

Aluminum is a chemical element found in group 13A of the periodic table. It is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust.

It doesn’t occur as a free element but rather in compounds of aluminum silicates.

Properties of aluminum.

Aluminum contains the following properties.

  • It is ductile and malleable, that is, it can be rolled into a wire or sheets.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It is a good conductor of heat and electricity.

Uses of aluminum.

Aluminum is one of the most used elements. It is mixed with other elements such as silicon and magnesium and used in the following ways.

  • In making parts of aircraft.
  • Used in making cooking utensils.
  • Used in making electrical conductors.
  • Used in making food processing equipment.
  • Used in making refrigerators.
  • Used in making air conditioning appliances.
  • Used to make milk cans, Jerry cans, and bottles 

Polyethylene terephthalate.

Polyethylene terephthalate is a polymer of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. It is also referred to as polyester. 

It is one of the most used plastic polymers in industries and homes.

Properties of polyethylene terephthalate.

The properties of polyethylene terephthalate include the following:

  • It is inert.
  • It is a strong and highly durable material.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation.
  • It is lightweight and therefore easy to carry.
  • It is fully recyclable.

Uses of polyethylene terephthalate.

The uses include the following:

  • Used to make cans for carrying beverages, water, cooking oil, and milk.
  • Used to make air filters.
  • Used to make carpets and ropes.
  • Used to make fishing nets.
  • Used to make pianos.
  • Used to make liquid crystal displays.
  • Used to make phone cases.
  • Mixed with natural fiber to make fabrics.

What is the future of glitter?

As earlier mentioned, glitter is a non-biodegradable material that contains microplastics that may pollute the environment.

Glitter is also associated with irritation of the eyes and the respiratory system. As a result, efforts are underway to come up with biodegradable glitter made from plant products.

Some industries have tried to use mica mineral to make glitter but it has not produced the same effects as regular glitter. Mica glitter contains less sparkling.

What is Today glitter?

This is a bio-glitter that is said to be biodegradable and Eco-friendly. The glitter is made from eucalyptus cellulose, is 100% plastic-free, and has passed all the safety tests in America.

The glitter is aimed at reducing the pollution in water, unlike the regular glitter that contains microplastics.

Other pros of this glitter are:

  • It is the first glitter to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used on lips.
  • It is an eye-safe substance.
  • It is safe for both kids and adults.
  • It can be used in art and craft.
  • It does not lose its color.
  • It can be used when dry or when mixed with other substances such as alcohol, water, soaps, and oils.

Is glitter eco-friendly?

No, according to a study, glitter is not an eco-friendly substance. It is made up of aluminum metal and polyethylene terephthalate microplastics that pollute the environment.

The effects of the microplastics are:

  • They are consumed by plankton, fish, and seabirds, affecting their metabolism.
  • Microplastics can be consumed by people by making their way up the food chain from fish.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate microplastics affect the hormonal balance of plants and animals.

Conclusion.

This article has covered the question of the biodegradability of glitter.

It has also covered other areas that include:

  • Components of glitter.
  • The properties and applications of glitter.
  • The future of glitter.
  • The eco-friendliness of glitter.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is glitter biodegradable?

Is glitter environmentally friendly?

No, glitter is not environmentally friendly because it contains microplastics that pollute the water systems.

How does glitter hurt the environment?

It contains polyethylene terephthalate microplastics that are hazardous to the environment. They pollute the water bodies and lead to landfills.

Is glitter plastic or metal?

Glitter is essentially made up of aluminum metal and polyethylene terephthalate plastics but it is generally a plastic compound.

Citations.

Does Natural Glitter Exist?. An article on TODAY GLITTER.

Retrieved from:

https://www.todayglitter.com/blogs/today-glitter/does-natural-glitter-exist

Robert Seeley, Henry W. Ruschmann (2021). “The Discovery, Development of Glitter”. Paper Film & Foil Converter (PPFC.online.com). p. 18-20. Retrieved February 22, 2022.

Lisa Marlin. ( 19 May 2021). Biodegradable Glitter: Is it Really Eco-friendly?

Retrieved from:

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