Biodegradable glitter also causes damage to the environment, just like ordinary glitter, according to a study conducted in the United Kingdom.
The demand for the ecological version of this product, which is quite popular at Carnival, increased after scientists pointed out that the small shiny plastic particles of the original version reach rivers and seas through the sewage system and take years to degrade.
Traditional glitter consists of a plastic core made of polyester PET film, which is coated with aluminum and then covered with another thin layer of plastic.
With complaints about its environmental impact, biodegradable versions were created. One has a cellulose core, coated with aluminum for reflectivity and covered with a thin layer of plastic. Another is mica glitter, a type of mineral increasingly used in cosmetics.
In laboratory tests, all types of glitter affected the growth of plants and algae in a lake.
“Glitter is a type of microplastic and can have the same effects as other microplastics and should not be released in large quantities into the environment,” says Dannielle Green, senior professor of biology at Anglia Ruskin University, to BBC News.
“If you’re using it as makeup, it would be wise to clean it and put it in the trash instead of washing it with water.”
How the research was done
According to the researchers, this is the first study to assess the environmental impact of glitter on bodies of water.
To test these effects, the researchers collected water, sediment and plants from the Glaven River in Norfolk.
They created miniature lakes in the laboratory, in which they released six different types of glitter. All decreased the abundance of common plants, as well as microscopic algae. There was no significant difference between the effects of ecological and traditional versions.
Biodegradable glitter also doubled the presence of non-native snails, which are normally found in polluted waters. According to scientists, this can lead to disruptions in an ecosystem’s food chain.
The experiments tested the effects of large amounts of glitter, similar to when glitter is used by a large number of people at the same time.
Scientists say the effects of smaller amounts, such as those used in makeup, are less worrisome.
The impact on plants and snails was observed after 36 days. The study did not assess the long-term impact.
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