Scientific Reasons to Ban Glitter

Written by: Mari Cookson

Photo credit

Photo credit

Body activists in Australia, painted themselves in glitter for a photoshoot aimed to encourage women to be more confident about their bodies (Bryant, 2017). Although a good cause, the glitter that they were coated in more than likely ended up in the ocean.

Plastic pollution in the ocean causes immense harm to the marine environment. Although small in size, glitter poses as a serious threat to the environment. Glitter’s small size enables it to travel easily and spread throughout the ocean. Scientists have found that a ban on glitter would help limit the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Plastic within the oceans:

 As it gets eroded by the waves and UV light, plastic within the ocean eventually turns into microplastic. Throughout the world’s oceans, plastic altogether weighs a total of 268,940 tons and 92% of that is microplastics (Pappas, 2017).


Plastic polluting the oceans of the Caribbean. Credit.

Reasons to ban plastic glitter:

Glitter is an already existing microplastic. Microplastic is any piece of plastic that is 5 millimeters long or less (Gabbatiss, 2017). If an individual has ever used glitter for an art project, then they are familiar with the task of having to clean it up. Glitter gets everywhere. Along with art supplies, glitter is also found in many beauty and shower products. This means that with each wash, pieces of glitter are going down the drain and into the ocean.

Glitter is made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and aluminium which are toxic substances that seep out of the glitter and harm the surrounding environment (Pappas, 2017). Marine life such as fish and shellfish easily mistake microplastics for food. It was observed that some organisms like the Eurasian Perch Larvae, are choosing to eat glitter over their normal food products. Plastic consumed by these living organisms cannot be properly digested and as a result reduces the organism’s energy levels. This makes it hard for the animal to respond to survival instincts. Sea organisms that consume microplastics will potentially experience gut damage, physical injuries and blockage, as well as changes to their oxygen levels (Alexander-white, 2016). Plastic within the animal’s body has also proven to cause physical stress and death (Harvey, 2016). Humans also experience physical harm when they eat marine life containing microplastics. The chemicals inside microplastics are correlated with cancers and nervous system disorders (Gabbatiss, 2017).

 Alternative Options:

 To protect the oceans, biodegradable glitter is the sustainable option that will satisfy human consumers. Companies like Lush, an environmentally friendly beauty brand, are already selling biodegradable glitter made from synthetic fluorphlogopite, which is material derived from natural minerals. When the product enters the oceans, it will not cause any harm to the marine life (Lush). Other biodegradable glitters that can be used for crafts, sold online and in some stores, are made out of plant base materials which makes them safe for the environmental as well. Marine life is capable of digesting biodegradable glitter and as a result, it is also safer for humans when eating seafood. It would be safe for a person to directly consume the biodegradable glitter or to cover their bodies for a photoshoot on the beach. Ban toxic glitter, and make room for Biodegradable glitter.


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  2. Bryant, Miranda. Daily Mail, 2 Mar. 2017, Accessed 14 Mar. 2018.
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  4. Harvey, F. (2016, June 2). Microplastics killing fish before they reach reproductive age, study finds. In The Guardian. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from
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