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Thousands join the 'war on glitter'

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, November 21, 2017, 6:52 PM - Christmas is coming, and for many children and adults, that means holiday crafts. But if you live in the UK, your child’s handmade art is going to be a lot less sparkly this year.

That’s because 22,000 nurseries in the country are banning the use of glitter in all holiday crafts.

Craft glitter and sequins are made out of tiny bits of plastic, and they’re difficult to recycle because they’re so small. Because of this, they’re particularly bad for the environment and our oceans, which is already filled with plastic waste.

Cheryl Hadland, the managing director of Tops Day Nurseries, told the Telegraph she banned glitter in all of her establishments after learning it's a microplastic that's bad for the environment.

The war on glitter hasn’t caught on in Canada yet, but the government has already taken steps to ban some forms of microplastics, like the tiny plastic beads that were once commonly found in personal hygiene products.

Plastic waste a big problem

Plastic is an inescapable component of modern society, but this "miracle material" has a downside.

It's estimated that 8 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s and research suggests it will take up to 500 years for some forms to biodegrade.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 in the U.S. actually made it to recycling plants. The other 92% was shuffled off to landfills or found its way into the water.

Plastic in the ocean

A study published in December 2014 by U.S. and U.K. researchers suggested there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes currently swirling in the world's oceans.

The largest source of plastic was from discarded fishing nets, but a heavy presence of plastic bags, toys and bottles was discovered as well.

Smaller pieces appear to be getting eaten by fish and travelling up the food chain.

The study only measured plastic found floating at the top of the ocean, and not the additional trash littering the seabed.


Plastic in the ice

Plastic isn't just swirling in the water: A study published in May 2014  discovered there could be trillions of pieces of microplastics lurking in Arctic ice.

As the ice it melts due to rising global temperatures, it could flood the ecosystem with an unprecedented amount debris.

"Arctic sea ice from remote locations contains concentrations of microplastics at least two orders of magnitude greater than those that have been previously reported in highly contaminated surface waters," the study's author's write.

"Our findings indicate that microplastics have accumulated far from population centers and that polar sea ice represents a major historic global sink of man-made particulates."

The research team believes that Arctic ice is trapping floating microplastics as it freezes. By citing current melting trends, the team estimates that 1 trillion pieces of plastic could be released in the next ten years.


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