Chances are that if you grew up anytime in the last half century, your memories of the holiday season are firmly linked to glitter. Glitter, for me, has always been an indispensable part of decking the halls and making things festive this time of the year.
Some of my most cherished ornaments are the ones my sons made for me when they were in preschool and kindergarten, some 20 years ago, and liberally sprinkled with — you guessed it — glitter.
But my love affair with glitter has come to an end, and here’s why you should consider cutting it out of your craft toolbox as well.
When it comes to the environment, any piece of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters is called microplastic, and glitter falls squarely into that category. Microplastics are a threat to ocean wildlife, and indeed to all of us, since those little flecks of plastic break down, are ingested and get passed along the food chain.
It’s safe to say that there’s a little bit of plastic in all of us these days, thanks to microplastics. And the effects over time are still unknown, but scientists are studying how these little plastic bits might affect our health and the health of all living things.
Glitter is made by bonding aluminum with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, and according to an article on EcoWatch.com, “PETs leach out endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which, when eaten by marine life, can cause adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects.”
PETs have been found to wreak havoc on oyster reproduction, and we should worry about how their presence can affect other animal species, including ourselves.
True, glitter is only one little part of the global plastic pollution problem. But this is a case of something that is created purely for our own entertainment and enjoyment — is such a thing worth piling on all the other microplastics in the environment?
And glitter is the kind of thing that is made for scattering around, making it easy to wash down a drain and out to the ocean. Even glitter that is glued down has a way of flaking off and ending up somewhere else from where it started out.
Glitter is not just a holiday item, of course, but a year-round embellishment that shows up as an ingredient in makeup and hair products, on fabric and in party items. And plastic glitter is something we can live without.
There’s been a call for a ban on plastic glitter in the United States, similar to the one imposed on plastic microbeads in 2010, which had previously been an ingredient in personal care products.
So what to do to add glitz and glamour to your holiday apparel and décor if plastic glitter is not an option? Surprisingly, there are alternatives available.
There are numerous biodegradable glitters on the market, made from everything from eucalyptus cellulose to fish scales. If you Google “eco-friendly glitter,” you’ll find a wide assortment of biodegradable glitter for sale online.
That’s good news if you can’t do without glitter at this time of year. Make those ornaments and embellish your sweaters — just do it with something that won’t hurt the earth.
Do you have questions or tips about sustainable living around the Central Coast? Send them to Kathryn McKenzie at [email protected] Follow Kathryn McKenzie at www.facebook.com/kathrynmckenziewriter.