We have bad news for our crafty friends and makeup addicts: Glitter is the new plastic straw -- which means it's hurting our environment and may even become illegal in some places.
Glitter, a form of microplastic, easily finds its way into the ocean, where its eaten by marine animals, causing physical distress, reproductive problems, and death. According to the EPA, "approximately 90% of the plastics in the pelagic marine environment are microplastics."
Considering how difficult it is to clean up the house after a glitter explosion, it's not a stretch to imagine the mess that our glitter-obsessed world is making in our oceans. Environmentalists say that even the microscopic glitter and other microplastics found in cleansers and toothpastes have the power to alter ecosystems. These particles have been found in the seafood we eat, which is a good reminder that everything we do to the earth we also do to ourselves.
British music festivals have banned glitter, and popular stores have committed to replacing it with safer options. In the United States, we passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which prohibits cosmetics containing certain types of plastic microbeads -- glitter not (yet) included.
But don't fret, because there's good news too: Scientists are working to make eco-friendly glitter from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminum. Popular makeup brand Glossier has a biodegradable glitter in the works. And Ronald Britton, one of the largest glitter manufacturers in the UK, makes plant-based Bioglitter that breaks down more easily in soil and seawater.
Why so much fuss over glitter? Studies show that humans are hardwired to seek shimmery and shiny things. An evolutionary theory claims that our love of sparkles comes from a primitive desire for water. With better education and awareness around our environmental impact, we're betting the biodegradable glitter industry is going to explode (so long as we don't have to clean it up!).
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