Glitter: Looking Beneath the Surface

Glitter: Looking Beneath the Surface

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with it. Once they make their sparkly entrance, they always seem to stick around. Ever wonder where that speck of glitter on your cheek came from after opening a glitter-speckled gift bag over a week ago? Ya, it’s the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving. 

Anyway, there’s much more than a subtle annoyance that glitter poses. They’re wreaking havoc to our ocean’s ecosystem.


Do you remember when former President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015? This was due to the microplastic beads found in personal-care products, namely, exfoliants and toothpaste. This happens to be the same issue with glitter as it gets its shine from the same microplastics.

Microplastics are too small to retrieve, filter, or recycle and they’re not biodegradable.


A study in the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) One reported that microplastics make up a whopping 92.4 percent of the 270,000 tons of plastic in the sea.

And here’s another alarming statistic:

Data from the UN Environment Programme indicates that the oceans are polluted with at least 51 trillion microplastic particles and that each year, at least 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans. To put that into perspective, that’s about 1 garbage truck dumping its contents into the water every minute.

FISH ARE ATTRACTED TO SHINY THINGS TOO (but their digestive systems aren’t)

Aside from the potentially harmful chemicals found in these products that are seeping into the water and affecting its inhabitants, marine life see the shiny material and easily mistake them for food–essentially eating plastic that they are not designed to digest.

Remember, the glitter will last a slim fraction of the time on your body vs the ocean–and the aquatic life will have to deal with it, specifically leaving this to the young (and small crustaceans) who are particularly vulnerable to these effects.


Now, if you still feel the need to use glitter for an upcoming event, outfit, or style, go for non-plastic varieties. There are versions made of polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene or polypropylene, although, as far as I know, we still don’t know the full implications of these materials so it may not be worth it in the end.

Nonetheless, here are some companies who use ‘environmentally friendly’ options:


This is a super short post about glitter alone. Marine life (among other animal groups) have suffered tremendously from human waste, heedlessness, greed, and frivolousness. We have to think twice (3x-100x) before we take the actions that we do – speaking to myself first and foremost. This quote saddens me but sparks the realization that we have a lot to do on our part:

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans. – Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer

While there are numerous unfortunate photos on the web (dolphins + plastic bags, cola cups in turtle shells, etc) to slump us into cognition, here’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but will have us think before we consume/waste:

via @wildanimalia

If you can stomach it, click here.

I recommend checking out this Vice segment on the topic:

(organizations, books, and references below)



Plastic Oceans

Plastic Pollution Coalition

5Gyres Institute

One World One Ocean Campaign

What are your thoughts on glitter, microplastics, marine life, and the ocean? 🌊 🐟 



Recommendations Readings:

Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans by Charles Moore, Cassandra Phillips

Trashing the Planet: Examining Our Global Garbage Glut by Stuart A. Kallen

Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye M.A. (Author),‎ Philippe Cousteau

The Story of Stuff



Eriksen M, Lebreton LCM, Carson HS, Thiel M, Moore CJ, Borerro JC, et al. (2014) Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. PLoS ONE 9(12): e111913.

V. Kudryavtsev, M. Yurovskaya, B. Chapron, F. Collard, and C. Donlon (2016). “Sun glitter Imagery of Ocean Surface Waves. Part 1: Directional spectrum retrieval and validation” Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

V. Kudryavtsev, M. Yurovskaya, B. Chapron, F. Collard, and C. Donlon (2016). “Sun glitter Imagery of ocean surface waves. Part 2: wave transformation on ocean currents” was also accepted with minor revision in Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

N. Rascle, F. Nouguieret, B. Chapron, A. Mouche, and A. Ponte (2016). “Surface roughness changes by fine scale current gradients: Properties at multiple azimuth view angles” Journal of Physical Oceanography (


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