Well, we have some bad news for your favorite drag queen, sex siren, and YouTuber: we need to stop using glitter. Immediately. At least that’s what scientists are saying.
There’s actually been a bit of a campaign against glitter for quite some time now. In Out’s December 2018 issue, Coco Romack wrote “Glitter — as it’s typically found in cosmetics, clothes, furniture, and beyond — is composed of petroleum-based plastic fragments. After it’s tossed in the trash or washed down the drain, it pollutes the environment, is ingested by wildlife, and then poisons our own food supply.” And you may be thinking, oh but they are just tiny specs .. well there’s a hell of a lot of them! Some were estimating that there were upwards of 51 trillion particles (that weren’t biodegradable so we are just adding to it) back then.
“I think all glitter should be banned because it's microplastic,” Dr. Trisia Farrelly of New Zealand's Massey University told CBS News in 2017. Now, those calls have surfaced again.
Florida Gulf Coast University sent out an advisory this month to its upcoming graduates warning them off of utilizing glitter in their pending celebrations. “Every piece of glitter that has been tossed or blown skyward in pursuit of the perfect celebration picture — most definitely millions, more likely billions of shiny microplastic pieces smaller than 5 millimeters — still sits in the bowels of our 800-acre campus,” they wrote in a release. According to them glitter and other microplastics have contributed 150 million tons of plastic to our oceans. Scientists and students on campus have found glitter in all campus water samples.
“There is a need to change the way plastic is viewed by society: from ubiquitous, disposable waste to a valuable, recyclable raw material, much like metal and glass,” the Royal Society of Chemistry said. “It’s hoped this will increase the economic value of plastic waste in a circular economy.”
An account on Instagram put it in extremely personal numbers. “The average North American is consuming between 39,000-52,000 pieces of microplastics every year due to food contamination,” they wrote, sourcing an unnamed study. “Those who drink mostly bottled water - an estimated extra 90,000 particles per year. Those who BREATHE - another 40,000-90,000 particles!!!!”
Thankfully, there are some companies aiming to provide us the shine without destroying the planet. In 2018, Romack was writing about BioGlitz, a brand started in 2017 as the first plant-based glitter brand. These biodegradable particles even provide a helpful side effect: they stick to your floor less than normal.
“We hope to inspire lasting change in the beauty industry as a model of sustainability,” founder Saba Gray told Out at the time. “There is a reason glitter has always been a staple in the queer community. It’s an armor against a world that says you have to look a specific way and fit into a mold. Sustainability isn’t just about creating eco-friendly alternatives, but also about inspiring fundamental changes to the fabric of society so that we can all start to view life as something sacred to be celebrated and protected.