The annual Christmas tradition of vacuuming up bits of glitter may be a thing of the past, as a number of high street retailers are ditching the sparkly material from wrapping paper and cards. It comes as numerous stores are opting to be more environmentally friendly regarding the packaging of products stocked on their shelves.
Both Tesco and Morrisons were the first supermarkets to announce they would be limiting the use of glitter and plastic for their Christmas packaging, with Buying Manager for Christmas and Events at Morrisons, Jodie Mackrill, saying: “We are always looking to find ways to reduce and remove plastic packaging across all of the products we sell. It’s what our customers tell us they want too.
"During the Christmas period, 269,423 miles of wrapping paper are used every year, contributing to plastic ending up in landfill. Our new entirely plastic-free Christmas wrap and gift range means customers can have a more sustainable Christmas and we hope that cutting costs on gift bags and wrapping paper will help them in that.”
The move by both Morrissons and Tesco have led to other supermarket chains following suit, as many businesses work towards reducing and then eliminating the amount of plastic waste they are using. Morrisons went one step further this Christmas by removing all plastic toys from Christmas crackers to further reduce their waste.
Boots have decided they will no longer sell glitter and single-use plastic packaging from its Christmas gifts, and Waitrose and John Lewis have also promised to remove glitter from single-use products this Christmas. Stores such as Marks and Spencers and Aldi already eliminated the reliance on glitter over the Christmas period in 2019 and Asda released their first set of sustainable Christmas products in 2020.
Why is glitter such a problem?
Glitter is considered a microplastic made of polyethylene terephthalate which is also used for polyester clothing and containers to store liquids and foods. Research has shown that the level of microplastics that are making their way into the ocean have a toxic effect on fish and other aquatic life, including reducing food intake, delaying growth, causing oxidative damage and abnormal behaviour.
Glitter made with microplastics have also been shown to take more than 1,000 years to biodegrade, leading to biodegradable options such as glitter made from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminium.
Dr. Chris Flower, Director-General of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, "the total contribution to marine plastic litter from glittery cosmetic products is negligible when compared to the damaging effects of bags and bottles... [While the] total effect of giving up traditional glitter might not be great in comparison with other harmful plastics, we should still do everything we can."