British supermarket cracks down on glitter

hands covered in glitter
Public Domain Unsplash

It might be pretty, but it's just another toxic microplastic.

A British supermarket chain has announced that it will ban glitter from all store-brand products. Waitrose said that by 2020 it will have found new ways to add sparkle to items such as greeting cards, wrapping paper, and floral displays that do not have the environmental impact that glitter does.

What's wrong with glitter, you might be wondering? It's made of tiny pieces of plastic – to be precise, etched aluminium bonded to polyethylene terephthalate. It's obviously a disposable product, impossible to reuse, and it either falls off or gets washed off in the shower. Once down the drain, the pieces are too small to be caught by wastewater treatment facilities and eventually end up in lakes, oceans, and rivers, where they pose a threat to marine wildlife.

Glitter has already been banned in several settings in the UK, including some nurseries and daycares (no doubt teachers and parents are rejoicing), as well as a BBC show called 'Strictly Come Dancing.' It has not yet caught on in the mainstream in the way that plastic straws and disposable coffee cups have, but that will probably come with time, as people become more aware of the issues with glitter. Trisia Farrelly, a social anthropologist from New Zealand who researches plastic waste and abhors glitter, is quoted on MNN:

"Start with [banning] microbeads, fine, but don't stop there. It would be ridiculous to do so. It's a no-brainer for glitter and microfibers; we have to stop producing them."

That's why we should celebrate progressive moves like Waitrose's. The transition will affect one-quarter of store-brand cards, wrapping paper, celebratory crackers, and tags, as well as half of its flowers and plants. Here's what we know so far:

"[These products] will either be glitter-free or use an environmentally friendly alternative. It [plans] to use more vibrant foliage in its cut flowers to compensate for the lack of glitter, while new designs would be used for stationery, in particular cards and wrapping paper."

I suspect we'll be see a lot more anti-glitter pledges such as this one.

British supermarket cracks down on glitter
It might be pretty, but it's just another toxic microplastic.

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