Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


Almost a Quarter of UK Nurseries Want to Ban Glitter

It used to represent joy and innocence.

But it's much like the discography of Taylor Swift. What was once the universal emblem of the inoffensive has recently revealed a dark side.

Glitter has a problematic secret: it’s actually terrible for the environment — and British nurseries up and down the country have had enough.

Take Action to Earn Tickets to Global Citizen Live Now

A new survey has found that almost a quarter of UK nurseries want to ban glitter.

The poll of 1,092 nursery managers, owners and workers by reviews site found that 22% were in favour of a ban. However, most still have no actual plans to ban it.

Read More: Glitter Is Banned From This Nursery for What Is Actually a Great Reason

It comes after Tops Day Nurseries, a chain with 19 nurseries that care for 2,500 children across southern England, decided to ban the sparkly substance last year.

It’s because glitter is a non-degradable microplastic: a teeny, tiny type of plastic often less than 5mm in length that can damage our ecosystem and pollute our oceans. It’s estimated that there are up to 50 trillion microplastic pieces already in our oceans — and one study has found that the number has increased 60-fold over the past 15 years.

Glitter is quite similar to microbeads — another type of microplastics often found in cosmetic and personal care products that was banned by the UK government in January. A single shower can produce 100,000 pieces of the plastic, and, too small to be filtered out by sewage systems, microbeads are often washed into the ocean where marine life swallows them. As a result, the average seafood fan will accidentally consume 11,000 pieces of microplastic every single year.

“Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic,” Alice Horton, a research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, previously told the Guardian. “We all know that glitter can get everywhere and is highly likely to end up in the environment, either down the drain or by shedding from decorative items. So I think there’s no harm in banning it from nurseries for craft purposes given that its only purpose is ornamental.”


However, despite a better understanding of the environmental consequences, the majority of nurseries still do not back a ban.

Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops Day Nurseries, said she felt "sad rather than surprised" that most nurseries are not considering a ban yet, and that she understood how it can feel like a “nanny state.”

"I would have had the same opinion only six months ago,” said Hadland. “I believe that when colleagues in education, and indeed more humans, understand what damage we are doing to the environment — with microplastics and one-use plastics — that they will start to do whatever they can in order to protect our world for our children and for tomorrow."

Global Citizen campaigns on the UN’s Global Goals, including Goal No. 14 to care for life below water. Take action with us here.

On April 17, Global Citizen Live will bring musicians, poets, comedians, and world leaders together at O2 Academy Brixton. Tickets are free and can be earned by taking action online with Global Citizen to help end extreme poverty by 2030. Take action now to earn free tickets.