In its ongoing commitment to combat microplastic pollution, the European Union (EU) has officially taken action, implementing a ban on glitter. Effective October 17, the European Commission’s microplastics restriction has come into force, marking a significant step in reducing microplastic contamination in the environment.
This proactive move is part of the EU’s broader initiative known as the Green Deal, with the goal of transforming Europe into the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The ban primarily targets the sale of microplastics in consumer products, including cosmetics and detergents, seeking more environmentally friendly alternatives to curb ocean pollution.
However, it’s essential to note that not all glitter has been banned. The focus is on loose plastic glitter, the type commonly used for crafting and personal adornment. The EU clarified, “Only certain types and uses of glitter are concerned, depending on what the glitter is made of, what it is used for, and whether it is loose, trapped in or attached to an object,” in a Q&A regarding the ban.
The initial announcement of the glitter ban created a stir among beauty enthusiasts and influencers, causing a surge in glitter sales in Germany prior to the ban’s implementation. Nevertheless, consumers can still purchase glitter; the EU has introduced specific regulations. For instance, glitter made from biodegradable, natural, or water-soluble materials remains permissible, as does glitter produced from “inorganic” materials such as metal and glass. Snowglobe glitter, encased in glass, is also exempt from the restrictions. Additionally, glitter beads and sequins intended for sewing purposes are covered by these regulations.
One pressing concern raised by some is the potential for waste generated by existing glitter products. The EU has addressed this issue by allowing retailers to deplete their existing glitter stock. Glitter, as it stands, can be sold for “makeup, lip, and nail cosmetics” until October 16, 2035, provided the products bear a label indicating the presence of microplastics.
The environmental impact of glitter, especially in terms of microplastic contamination, has been a topic of discussion globally, including in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the use of microplastic beads in cleansers, exfoliators, and toothpaste to mitigate water pollution, and glitter was identified as a subsequent target.
“After a single use, thousands of [pieces of glitter] may pass into the waters or soil and accumulate in the environment,” Meral Yurtsever, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Sakarya University in Turkey, told Allure in 2021. Yurtsever emphasized that these glitter particles could “remain intact for centuries.” The concern is not limited to water pollution, as microplastic glitter can also find its way into soil and even be carried by rain.
The EU’s proactive approach to curb microplastic pollution, including the restriction on plastic glitter, is a significant step toward preserving the environment and reducing the long-lasting impact of microplastics on the planet.