Are You a Glitterbug?

Are you still cleaning up glitter from your holiday celebrations? Did anyone glitter bomb a friend for fun or revenge? That shiny, sparkly stuff which sticks in your hair, your car, your carpet for weeks and years is polluting our fresh water streams and rivers, as well as our oceans.

What is glitter? It’s a microplastic, defined as plastics smaller than five millimeters in length. Glitter used to be made from mica rock particles, glass and even crushed beetles, all natural products. Now it is made from metal, but cosmetic glitter is made from polyester, foil and plastics. Remember plastic? It lasts forever.

Glitter is similar to microplastic beads found in facial scrubs, exfoliants, and lotions for cleansing. Those tiny microplastic beads are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. In 2015 the United States passed a law to phase out microbeads because they pollute our water sources and oceans.

Why is this important to our environmental and overall health? Humans are the only species to impact our environment with few restrictions placed on us - there are some people who would argue against this - those who think the EPA oversteps its bounds and over regulates. We can’t survive without water.

The United Nations Environment Programme presents these facts, as noted on sustainablebabysteps.com:

Of all the water on Earth, only 2.5% of it is freshwater. Of that 2.5%, less than 1% is available to us.

Humans each require up to 13 gallons a day of fresh water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. This does not take into account the countless gallons of water needed to grow food or care for animals.

70% of all freshwater usage goes to irrigating crops.

Those bits of glitter we toss around and sprinkle on art projects slip through the water treatment plants and enter our streams, rivers and oceans. Microplastics absorb certain chemicals and poisons in the water. Fish think those tiny bits are food, eat them, and so they make their way back up the food chain, back into food for humans.

Dr. Sherri A. Mason of the State University of New York in Fredonia, and her colleagues took samples from the Great Lakes “where there may be even greater concentrations of plastic particles than are found in the ocean ... that suggested concentrations of as much as 1.1 million bits of microplastics per square mile in some parts of the lakes’ surfaces, with beads making up more than 60% of the samples.”

Some British schools have recently banned glitter from use by their school children. But fear not, there are alternatives. Some environmentally conscious companies are making plant-based glitter, which degrades much faster, and better yet, won’t last for years in your hair, car and carpet.

So make your next celebration earth friendly with biodegradable glitter. Your kids can still have a sparkly childhood.

Keep Our Mountains Beautiful (KOMB) meets at 6:30 p.m., the fourth Thursday of every even numbered month at Round Table Pizza in Oakhurst. The next meeting is Feb. 22. All are welcome.

Details: komb4emc@gmail.com, or Sandee Scott at (559) 760-1058.