Eco-Friendly Gifts: Why We Choose Biodegradable Glitter
The demand for plastic free alternatives is becoming higher, due to the public awareness of microplastics and the damage they cause.
Let's have a look why we choose biodegradable glitter, instead of conventional plastic glitter. Our range of Biodegradable Glitter sets come in beautiful, plastic free packaging, and the glitter is completely plastic free.
What Is Biodegradable Glitter?
Biodegradable Glitter is similar to conventional glitter, but it contains no plastic and is fully biodegradable. Our Biodegradable Glitter also biodegrades in the marine environment, reducing the number of primary microplastics entering the ocean (we will get to microplastics in bit).
Biodegradable glitter is made from a cellulose core, which means it is produced from renewable biobased resources.
It is free of aluminium, is certified as 100% biobased content, and has a silky soft feel on the skin compared with traditional plastic glitter.
Conventional glitter is mostly produced from sheets of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bonded with aluminium. These sheets are then broken down into the tiny chunks of glitter you see when it is sold to consumers.
What's Wrong With Plastic Glitter?
As mentioned a little bit earlier, it's all to do with microplastics.
Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 5mm in all dimensions. Microplastics can be far smaller than that maximum size, to the point where they are invisible to the human eye.
Primary microplastics are plastics which have been produced to be less than 5mm in size. Examples of primary microplastics included nurdles, clothing fibres and plastic glitter.
Secondary microplastics are formed from pieces of plastic larger than 5mm in size. They can be formed from any plastic that degrades - common examples include water bottles, plastic cutlery and other common single use plastics.
With microplastics being found in places as deep as the Mariana Trench, they have truly become a global problem. Microplastics enter the food chain at the lowest trophic levels, with creatures such as zooplankton ingesting microplastic content.
These zooplankton are then consumed by it's predator on the trophic level directly above it. By ingesting the zooplankton, these predators also take in the microplastics that were inside the body of the zooplankton.
This process is known as the 'trophic transfer of microplastics'.
This process slowly continues, with microplastics slowly making their way up the food chain, until larger fish such as cod are consuming larger quantities of plastic.
Marine predators such as seals have now been found with microplastic traces inside them, as a result of this trophic transfer process.
Humans have also been found with microplastics inside them. Whether it's directly from eating cod or other fish with microplastics inside their bodies, it's hard to say as there are so many other ways in which humans could ingest microplastics.
Dr Trisia Farrelly, a widely respected environmental anthropologist, predicts there will more plastic than fish in the world's oceans by 2050.
What Danger Do Microplastics Pose?
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common type of plastic found in glitter. When it breaks down, it releases chemicals that disrupts hormones in the bodies of animals and humans.
Not only does this have the potential to affect the behaviour of animals, it also has been linked to potential cancers and diseases of the brain.
At current levels, it's hard to assess the risk posed by microplastics. However, we would argue that if there's any risk at all, why not change to a viable alternative with no risk?
With the UK government banning microbeads in 2018, it shows the importance of stopping the many tonnes of plastics entering our environment each year. With many festivals putting bans on single use plastic, the tide against single use plastic production is finally taking a turn in the right direction.
How Do Microplastics Enter The Water System?
With microplastics being found everywhere from our drinking water to on top of mountains, it's more important now than ever to understand where microplastics are entering our water systems.
We've included the most common and relevant methods of microplastic dispersal, as we think it is most relevant to us, and you.
The two main ways in which microplastics enter freshwater environments are through surface runoff and wastewater effluent.
Most of the culprits are actually quite surprising. Road marking paints and tyre wear debris are thought to contribute massively to microplastics entering the water system through surface runoff.
Microplastics from clothing fibres are released through standard wear and tear washing. Polyester, nylon and other plastics used in textiles are thought to account for 35% of all microplastics entering the ocean every year.
City dust, which is a collective term for the synthetic debris from shoe soles and artificial turfs, also contributes to surface runoff.
The image above shows visually what we've just talked about, as well as a few other less common methods that microplastics enter the water system.
How Do Microplastics Get Into Our Drinking Water?
For tap water, in the UK, treatment plant components are potentially made of plastic. Drinking water distribution networks can also be made from plastic. Both of these are potential sources for microplastics, through their erosion and degradation.
Moving away from tap water specifically, bottled water can also contain microplastics. This is because the water bottles, and caps, are usually made from plastic (most commonly PET).
Stats on microplastics are usually a bit daft for most of us, because the numbers are so huge and microplastics can be incredibly small. We decided to give one anyway, for any statisticians out there.
According to one study, 65 million microplastics are released each day in the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant. This number does sound incredibly scary, and we are not a fan of it (we would much rather it be zero).
Microplastics In Fresh Water
As well as in drinking water, microplastics are accumulating in the freshwater environment. Going back to our Biodegradable Glitter - plastic free glitter cannot contribute to microplastic numbers increasing, because it is completely plastic free. Biodegradable Glitter just degrades harmlessly into the ocean.
The most common microplastics found in freshwater are polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. This finding roughly equates to the total production volumes of each plastic.
Other Routes Of Public Exposure To Microplastics
Because plastic surrounds us every day, it has become more and more well known that we are exposed to microplastics on a regular basis.
Small children potentially are exposed to taking in more microplastics, due to putting plastic play objects in their mouths.
Microplastics in food is something we talked about a bit earlier in the blog, and here are the specifics.
In 2016, the European Food Safety Agency conducted a review of data already processed with regards to microplastics in food. Several key findings from this summary are listed below:
- Concentrations of microplastics in fish typically were found to be between 7 particles per gram (in fish) and up to 10 particles per gram (in shellfish).
- Other studies found microplastics in beer, salt and honey.
Microplastic transmission through air is something that is less understood than microplastics in food, but it is still a method of transmission.
As previously mentioned, microplastics formed by tyre and road wear are a source of microplastics in water due to surface runoff. However, they potentially could account for airborne microplastics as well.
Sea Salt aerosol formation is more commonly known as sea spray. Sea spray is formed by the action of the wind on the ocean. Any microplastics that are present in sea spray have the potential to be carried by wind to other destinations.
Other land based methods of airborne transmission include degradation of plastic sheeting, degradation of construction materials, clothes drying, and finally wear & tear of clothing.
As well as the glitter in our range of Biodegradable Glitter Sets being biodegradable, they also include Bamboo Glitter Brushes. While the handle is made from bamboo, unfortunately the brush itself remains nylon. We have chosen these brushes as they have the most minimal amount of plastic we could find.
Bamboo is a fantastic alternative to conventional fossil based plastic, which is often a material used to make traditional glitter brushes with.
An often talked about quality of bamboo is it's heightened ability to produce oxygen relative to other trees. Producing 35% more oxygen that other trees of the same stature, the plant is an important resource to draw on.
Another key quality bamboo possesses is it's capacity to sequester CO2. With research showing it can absorb up to twelve tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare every year, it could play a key role in reducing the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Being a fast growing crop, bamboo can reach harvestable quality in just five years, which is far quicker than slow growing trees such as oak.
Throughout this blog, we've gone over how conventional plastic glitter contributes to microplastic pollution in freshwater environments. We've also shown what the health risks that microplastics pose are, and how Biodegradable Glitter does not present these same health risks, as well as not contributing to microplastic pollution.
Our range of eco-friendly gifts is built with unique, joy bringing and environmentally friendly ideas.
Through carefully selecting independent producers that value sustainability, our range of eco-friendly gifts make a positive impact with every order.
If you would like to read more about all things biodegradable and plastic free, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.