Do The Oceans A Favor This Holiday Season ... Skip The Glitter

November 27, 2018

ID 6022937 © Candace Beckwith |


While you're decorating this holiday season, as festive as it looks, please take a pass on the glitter.

A widely used ingredient for sparkly packaging and greeting cards, these little bits of plastic really do a number on our waterways. Since glitter is made from plastic sheets, when it gets washed down the drain, glitter then becomes a subset of marine plastic litter known as microplastic. Microplastics, bits of plastic smaller than five millimeters in length, are found throughout the world’s oceans, on the surface to the deep sea floor. They then get consumed by plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds, and other marine life. These plastic bits collect in birds’ stomachs, where they can cause them to die of starvation. Scientists have become increasingly concerned about its effects on fish and other marine life.

How much glitter escapes into the environment is still unknown. Alice Horton, a research associate at Britain’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, told National Geographic there is no concrete data specifically on glitter. However, she adds that studies on the effects of microplastics are “highly variable, depending on the type and shape of the particle, so it’s hard to say what any likely ecological effects would be.”