Glitter is great, right? Particularly now that it’s getting dark and cold and a bit depressing outside.
But, as much as we love glitter for making everything look festive, a chain of children’s nurseries in the UK might actually have a point.
Tops Day Nurseries has decided that glitter has to go, for the sake of the environment.
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Just like microbeads — which have now been banned in the UK — glitter is a microplastic that can do “terrible damage” to our seas, oceans, marine life and, ultimately, us too.
Leftovers from children’s art projects wash into the water system, and from there can end up in the food chain, according to the nurseries’ managing director Cheryl Hadland.
“You can see when the children are taking their bits of craft home and there’s glitter on the cardboard, it blows off and into the air,” said Hadland, who is in charge of 2,500 children in 19 nurseries across Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Somerset, and Wiltshire.
“There are 22,000 nurseries in the country,” she added, “so if we’re all getting through kilos and kilos of glitter, we’re doing terrible damage.”
But Hadland added that she “loved glitter” and she is trying to find an alternative material for craft sessions.
Marine Conservation Society described it as a “proactive approach” and welcomed the nurseries’ announcement.
Sue Kinsey from the Marine Conservation Society, said: “While glitter is only a small part of the microplastic load getting into watercourses and the sea, steps like these will all add up to something greater.”
Alice Horton, from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, told the Guardian: “On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. [It is] not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”
Microplastics have become a hot topic in the UK, with the government announcing the strictest ban in the world on microbeads to come into force by the end of this year.
The tiny plastics are found in everyday cosmetic products like body scrubs, face washes, toothpaste, and cleaning products. And a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.
Once plastic gets into the ocean, it acts as a magnet for pollutants. Toxins that wash into bodies of water — for example, agricultural pesticides and chemicals from industrial plants — latch onto plastic. And plastic in the water is then eaten by marine animals.
It is already affecting our food chain. The average person who eats seafood swallows an estimated 11,000 pieces of microplastic every year, according to researchers at the University of Ghent.
Sir David Attenborough has been championing the fight against plastic pollution — which he has described as “heartbreaking”.
“We may think we live a long way from the oceans but we don’t. What we actually do here… has a direct effect on the oceans and what the oceans do then reflects back on us,” he said.
“It is one world. And it’s in our care,” he continued. “For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years, one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope it realises that that is the case.”
Global Citizen campaigns for the Global Goals, including to protect our oceans and seas. You can take action with us here.