17. Oct, 2020

All that Glitters

Biodegradable Glitter Revisited

In the lead up to Halloween and Christmas I thought it might be a good time to update our information on Microplastics and glitter with information just published

 Recent research suggests that  biodegradable alternatives may be  little or no better for the environment than “traditional” PET glitter in respect to the effects of on root length and chlorophyll levels which were almost identical to those of traditional glitter.  New research led by Dr Dannielle Green of Anglia Ruskin University and  published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials (Vol 402. 124070)      indicates after 36 days, the presence of glitter halved the root length of common duckweed (Lemna minor), while levels of chlorophyll in the water were three times lower than in control conditions, indicating reduced levels of phytoplankton, or microalgae. 

The only significant difference was a two-fold increase in the abundance of an invasive species of New Zealand mud snails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) in water containing the biodegradable MRC glitter. Dr Green, Senior Lecturer in Biology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), is reported as saying that “Our study is the first to look at the effects of glitter in a freshwater environment and we found that both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time. “All types, including so-called biodegradable glitter, have a negative effect on important primary producers which are the base of the food web, while glitter with a biodegradable cellulose core has an additional impact of encouraging the growth of an invasive species.

“We believe these effects could be caused by leachate from the glitters, possibly from their plastic coating or other materials involved in their production, and our future research will investigate this in greater detail.”

 Further information on glitter and Christmas waste can be found at Christmas Waste