SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE October 15, 2020
SNIP: Biodegradable glitter causes the same ecological damage to rivers and lakes as the ordinary product, according to the first study of its kind on the impact of the microplastic on the environment.

Tests on ordinary glitter and so-called biodegradable or eco glitter were carried out by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge.

The production of eco glitter has increased as consumers are urged to turn to apparently environmentally friendly alternatives to glitter made from a type of plastic known as PET.

Sixty festivals in the UK announced they would switch to biodegradable glitter instead of PET glitter by 2021, but the study says the biological or ecological effects of any type of glitter, conventional or biodegradable, have never been tested. The Anglia Ruskin study is thought to be the first to examine the environmental impacts of glitter.

One version of eco glitter has a core of modified regenerated cellulose (MRC), sourced mainly from eucalyptus trees, which is coated with aluminium for reflectivity and then topped with a thin plastic layer. Another form is mica glitter, which is increasingly used in cosmetics.

The research found that the alternative “biodegradable” glitters had several effects similar to those observed for conventional PET glitter, meaning they could be causing ecological damage to rivers and lakes.

The study found that the effects of MRC and mica glitters on root length and chlorophyll levels were almost identical to those of traditional glitter.

Dr Dannielle Green, a senior lecturer in biology at ARU, said: “Glitter is a ready-made microplastic that is commonly found in our homes and, particularly through cosmetics, is washed off in our sinks and into the water system.

“Our study is the first to look at the effects of glitter in a freshwater environment and we found that both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time.

She said all types, including so-called biodegradable glitter, had a negative effect on important primary producers that are the base of the food web. “Biodegradable” cellulose-based glitter had an additional negative impact in that it encouraged the growth of an invasive species, the New Zealand mud snail.

“We believe these effects could be caused by leachate from the glitters, possibly from their plastic coating or other materials involved in their production,” she said.

The supermarket chain Morrisons has announced it has removed glitter and plastic from all its own-brand ranges before Christmas, including cards, crackers, wrapping paper, present bags, flowers, plants and wreaths and non-seasonal items. It said the decision would remove more than 50 tonnes of plastic from its shelves over Christmas alone.