by Diana E. Perez
Glitter on your crafting, glitter in your makeup, glitter with your bath, glitter here, there, everywhere. Whether for crafting or cosmetics, glitter has become one of the most used materials to give your project that little extra something to make it shine, literally and figuratively. And there is nothing wrong with that! But as we now know, the complication comes afterwards, when the glitter is washed off or falls away and the harm its plastic components can do to the environment and the creatures living in it, including us.
Just as the joking says, that glitter can be found everywhere after it's used, the reality is that the small pieces of plastic really can make its way into all sorts of environments. What's more, that plastic will take hundreds of years to degrade, likely doing damage all the while.
But that doesn't mean that we have to give up our glitter enthusiasm! Biodegradable glitter (a.k.a. bio glitter or eco glitter) is a good option to replace the plastic-based glitter in all your projects.
About Bio Glitter:
What is it made of?
To simplify, bio glitter is made from layered modified regenerated plant cellulose (likely eucalyptus) and aluminium with pigmentation for colouring. Cellulose is a naturally occurring substance in plants; it's what their cell walls are made of. Normally, cellulose is not soluble in water, which means it would not degrade. However, because of a specific kind of treatment it undergoes in manufacturing, the cellulose fibres are converted into a soluble derivative, which can breakdown. This form of degradable cellulose is what is used for the bio glitter. In some bio glitter products, a teeny-tiny layer of aluminium is added to give the bio glitter its shine.
Is the aluminium harmful?
Aluminium is not harmful or toxic to the environment and is used in extremely small quantities in bio glitter when it is used. Some might be worried about a link between this metal and breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no definitive connection between breast cancer and aluminium. While some studies have not found a link and some have, it is important to remember that these studies so far are based on limited methods or small quantities of participants, making additional research necessary to say for sure one way or the other. Although it is generally not believed that the aluminium in bio glitter will do you any harm, if you have a specific health concern it is advisable to check the specifications on the bio glitter you use and ask your doctor.
Does it meet regulation standards?
Bio glitter has to undergo testing to prove what is in it, what it can do, and to ensure that it does not harm humans or the environment. Each country will have its own standards of regulation that takes several things into account for potential harms any product can do to humans and the environment. Regulation standards, though they vary, generally aim to keep knowingly harmful products out of the market, so if a bio glitter product is found on the market in your country, it has been approved for use. You can look up toxicity, allergen, biodegradability and compostability standards where you are.
How long does it take to degrade?
It can vary, taking anywhere from months to years depending on the exact environmental conditions the bio glitter is in. Damp and warmer conditions with more microorganisms will make the biodegradation faster. The opposite condition will slow it down. Either way, it's still a great deal faster than the micro-plastic of regular glitter.
With the abundance of creative projects in which you could use glitter, it is worth switching to bio glitter, especially for things you'll use on your body, such as makeup, bath bombs or soaps. Enjoy!
About breast cancer and aluminium: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet
About synthetic mica: http://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/SynFlu03201tr.pdf
What about mica? There are naturally-appearing minerals called mica that are mined and used in cosmetics and other industries to give products a glittery or lustre sheen to them. It is placed through a chemical process to give it different colours and reduce metal contamination that could be potential irritants. Synthetic mica is an artificial, lab-made and similar version of this mineral, with less metal impurities and smoother surfaces that reduce irritation. Minerals do not biodegrade, but mica, natural or synthetic, has not been found to be toxic to humans or the environment.
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