The UK holiday season is set to be a little less sparkling this year.
Three major retailers – grocery chains Morrisons and Waitrose and department store company John Lewis – have announced that they will not be using glitter on their disposable Christmas products this year. That means no glittering snowflakes on Christmas cards, no sparkling snowmen on stickers and no twinkling stars on wrapping paper.
“Glitter is made from tiny plastic particles and is an environmental hazard if it spreads to land, rivers and oceans – where it takes hundreds of years to break down,” Morrisons said in a statement.
It appears that there is no similar glitter calculation in the United States. Large retailers like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, and Costco didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether they were making efforts to ban or limit glitter. The Environmental Protection Agency didn’t answer questions about whether regulators or companies are taking steps to ban glitter in the U.S. or how glitter bans could affect the environment.
Glitter, a pretty substance known not only for its usefulness in crafts but also for being tenacious in sticking to clothing, carpets, and car seats, is (often) also a microplastic or piece of plastic that is 5 millimeters or less in diameter Diameter.
Microplastics have been scrutinized more and more closely in recent years, and scientists have found them everywhere. They pollute the ocean where they can be ingested by fish and other organisms. Some of the smaller pieces may be suspended in the air as invisible air pollutants.
This allows them to travel extreme distances, and they have been found in remote wilderness areas believed to be pristine.
In a report earlier this month that researchers cited as the first global estimate of the amount of microplastics on the ocean floor, the Australian National Science Agency found 9.25 to 15.87 million tons were embedded there – far more than on the ocean surface.
Compared to other microplastics, the glitter’s color and luster suggest it contains certain metals or other additives that are particularly harmful to the environment, said Robert C. Hale, professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary. (It’s hard to say which additives – that depends on where and how the glitter is made.)
But in terms of volume, glitter isn’t a major pollutant in the grand scheme of things. It makes up far less than 1 percent of the microplastics that pollute the environment, said Dr. Hale.
The vast majority of microplastics around us didn’t start out that small; They were made as larger pieces and collapsed. This is why plastic packaging poses a much greater threat to our ecosystem than glitter.
The synthetic materials in many items of clothing are also significant, as they can introduce microplastic fibers into our water systems with every wash.
While consumer products like microsphere scrubs or glittery decorations can grab our attention and even inspire legislation, they make up a tiny fraction of the microplastics that clog our air and oceans. Banning these items is a small step in the right direction, said Dr. Hale, “but it doesn’t really solve the problem.”
Amy V. Uhrin, the chief scientist for the Marine Debris Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, agreed that glitter is just one of many different types of microplastic pollutants. “It’s hard to say what the impact of a glitter ban would be,” she added.
Researchers are still trying to understand the reach and effects of sparkling microplastics, and Dr. Uhrin referred to recent studies that found glitter to be abundant in some environmental samples, especially soils. and that significant amounts of glitter had been found in the sewage sludge.
John Lewis, Waitrose, and Morrisons may have banned glitter on their vacation schedules but continue to sell products that contain plastic or come in plastic packaging. Both Morrisons and John Lewis, who runs Waitrose supermarkets, said they have significantly reduced the use of plastic in packaging and inventory in recent years and are committed to continue.