Not All that Glitters is Gold for Wildlife

With the Christmas season in full swing and families looking for art projects to do with their kids, NatureKids BC encourages families to consider eco-friendly alternatives to glitter this year.

For many people, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without glitter and sparkly accessories, however, the majority of commercial glitter products use materials that are hazardous to wildlife, birds and fish. Most glitter is made from plastic sheets which are cut into tiny pieces and when washed down the drain, glitter particles join the subset of marine plastic litter that is known as microplastics.

Microplastics are a growing problem for marine ecosystems as glitter enter the ocean from rivers via household wastewater and run-off from landfill sites, thereby putting wildlife and marine organisms at risk. Some estimates place the number of microplastic particles in the world’s ocean at up to 51 trillion fragments in total and glitter is part of the problem.

“The size of the fragments means they’re easily swallowed by sea life and the results can prove fatal,” says Louise Pedersen, Executive Director of NatureKids BC. “Fish, shellfish, seabirds, whales and other marine organisms can simply not tell the difference between particles of food and plastic and will consume the indigestible plastic bits which can fill up their stomachs and lead to starvation.”

“There are environmentally friendly alternatives that you can create at home as a family using items you already have in the cupboard,” continues Louise, “You can make your own glitter using food dyes and salt or sugar or enhance lentils and rice with eco-friendly paints. But for those young glitter fans who can’t forgo some sparkle this Christmas, biodegradable glitter can be bought online.’

And the glitter that doesn’t end up causing harm to wildlife ends up in landfills. Due to its plastic and foil properties, glitter has no recycling potential and has been known to clog up recycling machinery. So glitter-covered wrapping paper and cards are only destined for the garbage, causing an unnecessary contribution to landfill sites.

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