Saying Goodbye to Glitter? What to Know About Europe’s Glitter Ban

Saying Goodbye to Glitter? What to Know About Europe’s Glitter Ban

More than four decades post the splendor of the 1970s, Europe has formally heralded the demise of disco culture. This conclusion arrives with the continental authority’s prohibition on numerous forms of plastic-based glitter, attributed to their detrimental impact on both ecological wellbeing and human health.

The prohibition, effective as of Oct. 17, 2023, is a fragment of a broader initiative by the European Commission to diminish the dispersal of microplastic particles. Therefore, what is it about glitter that constitutes such a formidable menace to the environment, and what particular kinds of glitter fall under this prohibition?

Reasons for Glitter Proscription?

“Glitter is merely another contributor to plastic contamination,” articulates Erica Cirino, a representative of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “All plastic commodities, alongside the manufacturing methodologies utilized in their creation, emit microplastic and a multitude of additional pollutants.”

Yet, glitter poses an inherently significant threat due to its composition and the method through which it is produced.

Does Glitter Constitute as Microplastic?

“At present, the vast majority of glitters found in the marketplace are fundamentally microplastics, crafted from polyesters and smaller than 5 millimeters in size,” asserts Meral Yurtsever, a plastic investigation expert at Sakarya University in Turkey in an examination of glitter’s hazards. Glitters are “characterized by being flavorless, scentless, inconspicuous, enduring, and most notably, unlimited in their presence,” thus framing a significant environmental and biological hazard as an insidious and persistent adulterant.”

Does Glitter Represent a Greater Hazard than Other Microplastics?

In contrast to larger plastic fragments which gradually decompose into microplastic particles, glitters already exist as microplastics rendering them exceedingly challenging to eradicate, thus positioning them as a more immediate peril. Yurtsever indicates that a single grasp of glitter can compose millions of hazardous microplastics or nanoplastics, whose ingestion can disturb the health of both animals and humans.

“Casting this batch of glitter into our yard leads to countless microplastics scattering throughout the soil,” Yurtsever elaborates concerning one harmful usage of glitter. “An incredibly inexpensive and straightforward procedure. The consequence: Swift and permanent ecological degradation.”

Discover More: The Struggle Against Microplastics

Which Varieties of Glitter Are Subject to the Ban?

The European Commission’s ban includes free-flowing plastic glitter, a popular variety for dusting atop art projects or drizzling around vegetation or shrubs during celebratory events.

This kind of glitter does not degrade biologically and is insoluble, hence it cannot dissolve in aquatic environments, usually deriving from plastic pellets — a form of microplastic under close scrutiny by scholars and conservationists as of late.

Discover More: Indeed, Glitter is a Detriment to the Environment

What Types of Glitter Remain Permissible?

However, not every iteration of glitter faces obsoletion in Europe. The European Commission recognizes the exemption of free-flowing glitters crafted from “biodegradable, soluble, organic, and inorganic” substances, encompassing metals and glass, from the ban.

Moreover, glitters encapsulated within inks, paintings, pastes, adhesives, and other robust materials, alongside those which are completely sealed, such as the sparkling fragments bobbing within snowglobes, are still permitted for sale.

“Merely certain varieties and applications of glitter are implicated, conditional upon the composition of the glitter, its intended application, and whether it is unrestrained, entrapped in or affixed onto an object,” the European Commission revealed in a discussion about the enforcement of the new rule.

Glitter Usage in Cosmetics

The executive branch of the European Union does not object to the use of lustrous makeup used in nightlife. For the moment, leastways. Over time, the inhibition will widen to encompass cosmetics laden with microplastic glitters, with deadlines set in 2027 for wash-off cosmetics, 2029 for non-wash-off varieties, and 2035 for color cosmetics and nail polish formulations.

“The ambition is not to abolish all glitter but rather to supplant plastic glitter with alternatives that do not adulterate our oceans,” the European Commission appended within the explanatory session.

Discover More: Navigating an Uncertain Future with Plastics

What Complications Can Glitter Precipitate?

Adding to their toxicity, glitters are regularly synthesized from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, mentions Yurtsever, in dimensions barely 250 micrometers in breadth.

What Is Classified as PET Plastic?

These diminutive fragments are then layered in metals and polymers to bestow their lustrous effect. The extent of complications PET plastics may cause within the environment is poorly understood, and even less so when considering glitters alone.

However, certain examinations have demonstrated that glitter can induce distress in marine bivalves, distinct from the tension perpetuated by other microplastics, while additional research has illustrated that glitter can alter the workings of freshwater habitats.

Glitter and other PET plastics stand out for their higher density relative to other plastics, rendering them more likely to plummet to aquatic depths and accumulate, highlights Yurtsever.

Can Glitter Hold Harmful Compounds?

While PET plastics deriving from petroleum bases don’t readily decompose in nature, the injurious chemical constituents often comprised within glitters and similar PET plastics (like polymers and phthalates) may percolate into the environment as time progresses.

“These characteristics can provoke highly detrimental impacts on the environment and living beings,” Yurtsever claims. They’re capable of causing skin irritation among people, and are correlated with hampered growth, fertility disruptions, cardiovascular troubles, and cancer risks.

Discover More: The Perils of Microplastics in the Human Body

Are There Further Strategies in Place to Reduce Plastic Contamination?

The interdiction of glitter represents merely one segment of the European Union’s scheme to mitigate plastic pollution. The EU Commission calculates an annual discharge of 52,000 tonnes to 184,000 tonnes of plastic granules into the environment due to mismanagement in the distribution network. Concurrent with the commencement of the glitter prohibition in October, the Commission disclosed a fresh proposition to decrease this neglect and minimize plastic granule emission by nearly three-quarters.

Perils Posed by Plastic Granules

“The incorporation of plastic onto and within our bodies inflicts harm upon our well-being and the planet’s longevity, hence the EU’s recent glitter interdiction signifies an advancement in attenuating microplastic contamination,” Cirino affirms. “On a global scale, authorities must enact expedient, decisive measures to markedly reduce the industrial production of all plastics, particularly the swiftly consumed and discarded single-use plastic items and packaging, and sever their dependency on fossil fuels, the primary source for plastic manufacturing.”

Discover More: Microplastic-Collecting Mini Automatons

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Hey there, I'm Logan Mitchell, and I'm all about life hacks, clever solutions, and smart strategies. My passion is to share practical insights to make your daily life easier and more enjoyable. When I'm not writing, I'm constantly exploring new tips and techniques to streamline and enhance our everyday routines. Join me on this journey, and together, we can unlock the secrets to a more efficient and fulfilling life.

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