Biodegradable glitters 'no better' for the environment - study

Both regular and 'eco-friendly' glitters are damaging freshwater ecosystems.
Both regular and 'eco-friendly' glitters are damaging freshwater ecosystems. Photo credit: Getty

Glitter is harming freshwater habitats, and according to a new study, 'eco-friendly' alternatives can be just as damaging.

New research released by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has found that glitters - commonly made with plastic - are harmful to animals and can hinder plant growth.

The study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, warned that biodegradable glitters could potentially encourage the spread of invasive species.

Glitters found on clothing, cosmetics and body paint are washed off in sinks and showers into water systems.

Researchers examined the impact of glitter on freshwater habitats, finding that after 36 days, the presence of glitter halved the length of freshwater plant roots.

Glitter also reduced levels of microalgae and phytoplankton - a key player in freshwater ecosystems.

When comparing regular glitters to 'eco-friendly' alternatives, the study found that the number of New Zealand mud snails doubled in water containing biodegradable glitter.

The mud snails are an invasive species in the UK, having the potential to disrupt ecosystems.

ARU senior biology lecturer Dr Dannielle Green says biodegradable glitter can negatively affect core primary producers, who are the base of the food web.

"Both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time," Green says.

Freshwater habitats are home to more than 100,000 species of plants and animals.