Glitter is a ready-made microplastic, and using the traditional kind made from plastic in our pursuit of sparkling is damaging to the environment. Luckily, it is possible to find glitter that twinkles without causing environmental damage.
The Problem With Traditional Glitter
The sparkling fragments of traditional glitter are made from etched aluminum bonded to polyethylene terephthalate.
While PET itself is a highly-recyclable material, standard glitter is non-recyclable because it is bonded with the aluminum. This means it can’t be reduced and reused, and it can clog machinery. It’s also near impossible to prevent glitter from escaping into the environment due to the tiny size of the pieces, and it is easily washed into water systems and soil.
As well as being a problem at the end of its life, the production of glitter is also an energy-intensive process that uses chemicals and dyes which are less than environmentally-friendly.
Glitter fragments are part of the environmental crisis of microplastics.
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics account for 85% of plastics found in the environment.
Most of the plastic pollution crisis is fairly visible, with whales’ stomachs being filled with plastic bags, turtles getting trapped in six-pack rings, and bottles littering every shoreline. But a less visible aspect of the plastic pollution crisis is the problem of microplastics.
These are fragments of plastic that measure under 5mm, ranging from purposefully small plastic fragments originally used as abrasives to break-off fragments from larger pieces of plastic. Microplastics are ubiquitous now, having infiltrated even the deepest parts of the ocean.
These can have such detrimental effects as causing animals to die of starvation by filling up their stomachs. This also affects the population of marine life by causing death before reproduction can occur.
A third of fish caught in the north sea had microplastics in their stomachs, including glitter, and they even find their way back into our food and water supplies. The eventual breakdown of these plastics can also release chemicals that disrupt animal and human hormones, meaning they have a direct impact on human health as well as the wider environment.
Glitter is only one type of microplastic and is by no means the biggest problem, but it is a contributor.
Sustainable Alternatives to Traditional Glitter
When it came to light that plastic glitter was bad for the environment, many companies, such as Lush, tried to find a sustainable alternative.
One of the initial alternatives was to use naturally shimmery mineral mica. However, it was realized that the majority of this was being sourced from illegal Indian mines exploiting child labor, and was quickly abandoned.
Other alternatives made from lab-grown mica and biodegradable materials such as cellulose have since been created, and there is now a wealth of sustainable glitter options out there.
The best kind of glitter to buy is biodegradable. Since it’s impossible to pick up every piece of glitter, it’s best to find a kind that can end up in the environment without causing any harm.
It is important to remember that glitter makes up only a tiny proportion of the microplastics present in the environment, and you should try and eliminate them from the rest of your life too. But in a world where a little bit of sparkle is everything, buying biodegradable glitter will make your Instagram posts ethically iridescent.
Where To Find Sustainable Glitter Alternatives
The problem with eco-friendly glitter is that there isn't any, when it comes down to it. There are many companies out there claiming to sell biodegradable glitter when they actually sell compostable glitter, which isn’t as eco-friendly as it sounds. Like many "compostable" bio-plastics, compostable glitter will only break down in an industrial composter, which is an unlikely final destination for these tiny fragments.
There is only one certified bioglitter on the market, invented and pioneered by UK company Robert Britton ltd.
Who are Robert Britton ltd?
After learning about the microplastics crisis in 2010, glitter suppliers Robert Britton Ltd decided to create an eco-friendly glitter alternative. The result is made from plant-derived materials rather than plastic, is independently certified to biodegrade within 28 days in the natural environment, and is not considered a microplastic.
BioGlitter SPARKLE, the original, is the most similar to traditional glitter as it still has an aluminum-based coating to provide high shine - but it’s still 92% plastic-free and certified as biodegradable.
BioGlitter PURE and BioGlitter PURE Opalescent are 100% plastic-free and biodegradable. Cosmetic grade versions of both products are available, and the company is also constantly working to reduce the plastic left in the original BioGlitter SPARKLE and to expand their range of BioGlitters further.
BioGlitter supplies such big brands as Primark and Accessorise has been named as one of National Geographic’s top 4 innovations and has even been acknowledged by sir David Attenborough for their work against plastic pollution.
What is BioGlitter made of?
BioGlitter is made from ethically sourced plant-based materials, with its core constructed of a naturally biodegradable form of cellulose extracted from sustainably managed, largely eucalyptus, forests. It can be used for crafts, cosmetics, and decoration, and ships worldwide to stockists in cardboard packaging.
Their products are high-quality, the cellulose they use is extracted from forests managed to PEFC standards, and they are also cruelty-free.
Where can I get BioGlitter?
Bearing in mind this is the only certified BioGlitter on the market, what you are choosing between when buying eco-glitter is which business suits your needs the best. Robert Britton licenses a variety of suppliers to sell BioGlitter, and below we’ve put together a list of the top ten.
The Best Eco-Friendly Glitter Businesses
Offering ‘guilt-free sparkles’, Eco Glitter Fun donates to Plastic Oceans UK (amongst other charities), and they ship their products worldwide in plastic-free packaging.
Eco Glitter Fun offers over 50 colors and blends of glitter, as well as art kits, seasonal boxes, and even a monthly glitter subscription service. They also have glitter-finished accessories such as earrings and glitter application brushes which you can buy to complete your sparkle obsession.
Eco Glitter Fun also offer handy tips on how to spot fake BioGlitter. The real stuff only comes in the small hexagonal shape, not in stars, hearts, or other shapes. Not that you should try this at home, but it also burns like paper, while plastic glitter melts.
The mission of this biodegradable glitter company is to spread the joy and happiness of glitter as well as awareness of the environmental impact of microplastics.
This young business has won the Blue Patch sustainable business award, which is dedicated to showcasing young businesses with exceptional social consciences and the organization themselves donate excess funds to environmental and conservation projects.
You can browse a range of single color and blended BioGlitter products as well as accessories and sparkly bath products.
As well as offering an ethical product, EcoStardust lives by their values, committing to cleaning up the environment through beach cleans and building eco-bricks with their plastic waste.
Another great feature of this ethical glitter business is their ‘non-bio glitter amnesty’; if you have traditional plastic glitter lying around that you don’t know what to do with or how to dispose of, then you can send it in for them to upcycle into something new and receive a 15% discount on your next BioGlitter order.
You can also buy the jewelry they make from the non-bio glitter!
A tiny independent company based in North Cornwall, England, Wild Glitter was founded out of first-hand experience of the plastic pollution crisis. With its shores swept by the Atlantic Ocean, the Cornish coast is often littered with ocean plastic.
Wild Glitter’s orders are packaged in cute recyclable tins, and they offer a really good range of affordable options from single pots of colorful glitter (in small or large size). They also sell multipacks, from small 3 pot packs to the full range, in either small or large pots. You can even make a pick and mix multipack to suit your needs exactly.
This small business ships worldwide in recyclable packaging.
Miami-based Today Glitter is the first US company licensed to sell BioGlitter, as well as offering a range of BioGlitter products packaged in recyclable glass containers with cork stoppers.
You can simply browse their range, or use their "shop the look" function which allows you to browse beautiful glitter make-up looks and buy the right sparkles for the job.
As well as that unique shop the look feature, Today Glitter is a brand genuinely committed to the cause of eco-friendly glitter, publishing blog posts on the issue of microplastics and tonnes of information about the BioGlitter industry and the effect of traditional glitter on the environment.
As well as that, they have a great selection of articles on fun, inventive ways to use BioGlitter such as arts and crafts projects which are great for children.
Glamavan started in 2012 in the UK as a traveling makeup artist and beauty salon. Thetheir glitter-makeup has always been their most successful service, and they only use BioGlitter to do it.
As well as their beauty salon service, Glamavan sells BioGlitter, offering individual color pots for personal use, gift sets, and even adorable eco-friendly sparkly reindeer food for a special Christmas treat.
A unique product range from this independent business is their positivity craft packs, which come with glitter to make beautiful positivity-spreading cards and postcards
Almost all of their products including their glitter gel are vegan and all are cruelty-free. Their packaging is made up of recyclable cardboard with a cellophane inner, and reusable (or recyclable) metal pots for the glitter. What’s more, they will soon offer a refill service!
Located in the USA and run by a busy mom-of-two, The Good Glitter is an independent business that’s living proof that one person can make an impact.
The founder of this business is a former-soap maker with a love of glitter, a side passion for rearing caterpillars, and a determined desire to provide sustainable sparkle to people’s lives.
The Good Glitter offers a range of products, including bulk orders, application tools (including shakers), seasonal glitter blends, variety packs, single colors pots, and cosmetic options.
One cute, unique product is their "no waste glitter" blend. Spillage is inevitable when filling thousands of orders, but the spilled glitter doesn’t go to waste and is instead used to produce a kaleidoscopic multicolored glitter blend that’s different every time.
Orders are packaged in biodegradable, recycled, or recyclable containers, and the individual metal and plastic glitter containers are refillable. Plus, when you’re done with your containers, The Good Glitter encourages you to send them back for reuse.
Founded by a group of makeup artists, each blend is hand mixed in Toronto to ensure maximum sparkle and a beautiful effect.
Moon Shatter offers a select range of beautiful hand-mixed blends for every occasion, from the understated Gilded Rose blend to the attention-grabbing Blue Lagoon.
As well as the glitter blends themselves, Moon Shatter sells long-lasting cosmetic grade binding gel so you can create stunning glitter-based looks for parties and festivals. They also offer advice on the best ways to apply the glitter to skin and hair for maximum impact.
Moon Shatter also offers a loyalty program, where you can earn Sparkle Points to redeem as money off, and a $5 discount scheme for friend referrals.
Each blend or kit is also shipped in glass containers, which can be reused for another purpose once empty, recycled, or refilled with more Moon Shatter Glitter.
With the catchy slogan “glitter should never be litter”, Glitterazzi was founded by a makeup artist who realized there must be a sustainable sparkly alternative to washing bits of plastic into the water system.
Glitterazzi supply some spectacular BioGlitter blends (including the mythology range which features 6 opalescent blends all named after mythical creatures) and single color pots.
You can also buy Glitterazzi shimmer balms, which are deliciously fragranced glittery body balms to make your skin sparkle, or you can buy a product unique to this business which is the luxurious liquid shimmer. This coconut oil body lotion is infused with the scent of tuberose and contains very fine silver or gold glitter to give your body a sparkly sheen.
Rather than using solely their own packaging, Glitterazzi makes sure to salvage used packaging first. This means you might get your order in an unexpected box, or wrapped in some reused bubble wrap. This is a great way to reduce waste.
Describing themselves as ‘The home of guilt-free Glitter’, Australia based Glitter Tribe have a bohemian style and truly eco-friendly attitude.
They offer a range of beautiful BioGlitter blends, contained in a 10ml reusable/recyclable metal tin or 20g eco bag, and your order will be shipped in a pretty and reusable cotton gift bag.
As well as BioGlitter, the Glitter Tribe also has a range of fake tattoos and facial jewels so you can complete your festival style, as well as offering fun ideas for what to do with your glitter (like make eco-friendly reindeer treats).
There may only be one certified biodegradable glitter on the market, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of choice within that - whether you want to support a tiny business on the Cornish coast or get a blend hand-mixed by professional make-up artists, there’s a licensed BioGlitter supplier for you.