Giving Up The Glitter This Christmas

You might feel like glitter will add some sparkle to your Christmas but the reality is sadly less bright. You may not be aware that most glitter is made of plastic! In fact glitter can be categorised as a microplastic (plastic particles less than 5mm in size).

What are microplastics?

Microplastics cause a lot of damage to the environment and are prevalent in our oceans. They have been found everywhere from the arctic circle to the tip of Snowdonia and inside plankton in the Marianas Trench (7 miles below sea level). As plankton ingest microplastics that means they are transferred up the food chain so everything from mussels to basking sharks are contaminated! Not only do animals die from ingestion (as well as the fact that if you're a seafood lover you're ingesting them too), but microplastics also release toxic chemicals (mmm fish and chips anyone?).

There are two types of microplastics; primary and secondary.

  • Primary microplastics - purposefully manufactured small bits of plastics
  • Secondary microplastics - the breakdown of larger plastic items on land or at sea

Glitter is therefore considered a primary microplastic. 

Now that's out of the way...

You might be asking yourself, why can't I just recycle my glittery wrapping paper and cards?

Any card which has glitter, glue, is over-printed in foil or a 3D image cannot be recycled. When you place these items in your recycling they ultimately contaminate the waste stream meaning everything else in your cardboard recycling is now also heading straight to landfill. 

We Brits purchase 1 BILLION Christmas cards and dispose of 227,000 MILES of wrapping paper each year, so that's potentially A LOT of glitter!

Fortunately some retailers have made the wise decision not to sell items containing glitter this year. 

  • Morrisons 
    - no longer using glitter on any of their own cards, wrapping paper, florist items and any seasonal products
    - Pledged to remove single use plastic from their Christmas crackers
    - Pledged to reduce wrap on cards and decorations
    - Policy to remain in place throughout the new year for all store brand cards and gift bags

  • John Lewis and Waitrose 
    - all own brand Christmas merchandise including cards, wrapping paper, crackers and gift bags will be free of any glitter.

  • Tesco
    - will only be using 'edible glitter'

  • Sainsbury's
    - no longer using glitter on their cards, wrapping paper or gift bags
    - reducing glitter in their decorations, crackers and bouquets. 

  • Boots
    - pledged to stop wrapping present in single use plastic packaging

Ultimately we can do so much to reduce the demand for glittery festive goods by staying clear of them and opting instead for recyclable products or even better reusable! (see A Zero Waste Christmas). And while moves from retailers like this help us all make more sustainable choices, we need to see supermarkets going one step further opting for the removal of all items containing glitter from their store's, not just supermarket own brand items.

So let's drive the market for recyclable and reusable products this Christmas and reduce demand for single use plastic products. The power is in our hands.

Quick Tips:

  • Go Reusable! 
    There are loads of options available, check out the likes of Wrag Wrap and Happy Wrap.

  • Save old gift bags and reuse

  • Opt for drawn on
    - grab some colouring pens and simply draw a beautify bow or even a gift tag onto your gifts

  • Grab your decs from the great outdoors or your Christmas tree!
    - take a few cuttings of spruce from your tree, pair with twine and recycled brown paper 

  • Take a look in the cupboards for a herb sprig, cinnamon sticks or dry out some orange slices
    - this ones going to smell good too

For inspo on how to make that recycled paper look work this Christmas check out our new Christmas hampers! These boxes are housed in reusable cardboard boxes, padded with recycled paper/card and tissue, tied with twine with a little festive orange garnish to finish them off. 

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