Did you know that the glitter on greeting cards is plastic? With a few rare exceptions, the vast majority of glitter (on cards, holiday decorations, crafts, etc) is microplastic. And like everyone who has ever tried to clean up glitter knows, it’s impossible to get rid of it!
Glitter ends up contaminating the environment in one way or another. In waterways, microplastic is consumed by tiny organisms, and it eventually makes its way up the food chain, including, of course, to us. Don’t eat seafood? It’s still in drinking water (tap and bottled). Some reports tell us that we consume the equivalent of 5 grams of microplastic every week!
We don’t know the full health effects of humans consuming microplastic yet, although common sense tells us that it certainly can’t be positive! Current research show that microplastic is negatively affecting water-dwelling creatures. Microplastic also has a tendency to absorb toxins over time, such as persistent organic pollutants.
So back to our very merry holiday cards. Here are some tips for choosing better options:
- Opt for no cards altogether! (Because low-waste isn’t just about plastic, it’s about all resources.)
- Find secondhand cards, reuse cards, or make your own out of materials you already have.
- If buying new, try to choose ones made with recycled paper, nontoxic dyes, and no glitter or plastic packaging.
- If you buy many cards at one time, buy directly from a local artisan, and request them without plastic sleeves (which are so ubiquitous these days!)
I’m curious: do you try to avoid glitter? What do you do for holiday cards?
Some additional reading on glitter:
Sources on microplastic:
2011. Accumulation of microplastic on shorelines worldwide: sources and sinks. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21894925
2018. Retention of microplastics in a major secondary wastewater treatment plant in Vancouver, Canada. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X18304053
2019. WHO. Microplastics in drinking-water https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/microplastics-in-drinking-water/en/
2016. Uptake and effects of microplastic textile fibers on freshwater crustacean Daphnia magna.
2019. No plastic in nature. http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/plastic_ingestion_press_singles.pdf
2016. Emissions of microplastic fibers from microfiber fleece during domestic washing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099352/#CR2