Europe Bans: All That Glitters

Olivia Petrus
Glitter in hands affect by glitter ban
Courtesy of Waste Away Group

Festival goers and craft enthusiasts alike woke up to news that the EU has instituted a “glitter ban” in an effort to reduce microplastic pollution by 30 percent in EU member nations by 2030. Needless to say, Euro influencers panicked.

What happened: The European Union, aka the Disco Police, is cracking down on loose plastic glitter and certain products containing microbeads with a ban which came into effect on Tuesday. But fear not, influencers, biodegradable glitter is still allowed. At least for now.

  • Sales of glitter reportedly surged before the ban went into effect, with German reality TV stars and influencers leading a glittery charge to stock up before the products were pulled from shelves.

Glitter is litter: Typically made from a combination of aluminum and plastic, glitter is a source of microplastic pollution which poses environmental and health risks.

  • Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters in length and can be found in various products, including cosmetics and toiletries.

While some companies have developed biodegradable alternatives to traditional plastic glitter, the EU’s ban does not include glitter made of inorganic materials, natural alternatives, or water-soluble varieties.

What happens when the party’s over?

The glitter often ends up in oceans, lakes, and rivers. This can result in both harming marine life and causing health issues in humans.

  • Th tiny plastic pieces easily pass through water filtration systems. It’s estimated that there are between 50 and 75 trillion pieces of microplastics currently present in the world’s oceans. That’s a lot of sparkle.

Zoom out: While some scientists have advocated for a glitter ban, others argue that its impact on the broader issue of microplastic pollution is relatively minor.

In 2020, Bloomberg reported that policies targeting microbeads, similar to the glitter ban, address only 2 percent of plastic pollution in the oceans. The primary contributor, at 35 percent, is synthetic textiles used in clothing.