61 UK music festivals are banning glitter. Here's why it's time to switch to biodegradable sparkle

Chloe Street
A festival-goer has her face painted with glitter at Glastonbury 2017: AFP/Getty Images

Over 60 British music festivals have committed to ban single-use plastic from their sites by 2021.

The Drastic on Plastic initiative, led by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), will lead to the removal of plastic drinks bottles, plastic straws, plastic food trays, cable ties and toiletry bottles from festival sites.

It will also outlaw that festival favourite: glitter.

Glitter is made up of tiny pieces of plastic, and as of 2021, it will be forbidden at 61 independent music festivals including End of the Road, Bestival, Boardmasters and Kendal Calling (see a full list here).

Glastonbury festivalgoers (PA Archive/PA Images)

When, back in January, the UK government banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics, it raised the alarm on the damaging effect some cosmetic products are having on our oceans.

According to Greenpeace, 12.7 million tonnes of plastic are entering the world’s oceans every year. Microbeads, which are found in toothpastes, shower gels and many scrubs and cleansers, are so small that our sewage systems are unable to filter them out, and thus they end up in the stomachs of seabirds, whales, turtles and other sealife. Not only is this dangerous for the marine life, but anyone eating such fish will most likely be eating the plastic too.

But while January’s ban raised awareness on microbead-containing face scrubs, most of us remained unaware that our Preen-inspired Tinkerbell sprinkling of face glitter, while legal (currently, the government ban only covered glitters and shimmers contained products like shampoos and shower gels) is also damaging to the environment.

Back in November several nursery schools went so far as to ban the use of glitter in craft sessions (and a study revealed in March that one in four want to ban glitter from classrooms in the future) and some music festivals have already begun to outlaw traditional glitter. Shindig and Shambala festivals have explicitly asked festivalgoers not to bring glitter onto their sites, while WEAREFSTVL specifically state in their supplier contracts that all traders using glitter must use biodegradable glitter.

So does this really mean the end of sparkly faced festival fun?

Thanks to a new an equally fabulous and sparkly, totally affordable and 96% biodegradable product called Bioglitter, absolutely not.

Glastonbury Festival 2017 (Getty Images)

Replacing the plastics typically used in glitter with a plant-based cellulose derived from Eucalyptus trees, Bioglitter naturally decomposes once it enters soil, compost or waste water environments. Plus, it still has the same shine and high precision cut as traditional glitter and is also 40% softer and more delicate on the skin than conventional glitter.

Currently Ronald Britton is the only manufacturer making it in the UK, and they provide to several retailers including Ecostardust, Ecoglitterfun an Glitterlution.

Stephen Cotton, commercial director of the new Bioglitter brand, said: “We are committed to minimising the impact of glitter on the environment and Bioglitter is our first step on that journey. We are convinced that it will revolutionise the market and demonstrate that there is an alternative way forward. It represents a large step forward towards our goal, containing around 92% less plastic than any counterpart and naturally degradable, so significantly reducing its effect on nature.”

These are some of the brands offering biodegradable sparkles:

Ecostardust

Ecostardust ultra chunky gold biodegradable glitter, £6 per pot. Ecostardust.com

EcoGlitterFun

Ecoglitterfun uber chunky set of biodegradable glitter, £30 for 6 bottles. Ecoglitterfun.com

Glitterlution

Glitterlution Bioglitters, £12.95 for 100ml bottle. Available at Glitterlution.com

If you haven't made the switch yet, don't panic.

We spoke to Dr Chris Flower, Director-General at the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, who stressed that “the total contribution to marine plastic litter from glittery cosmetic products is negligible when compared to the damaging effects of bags and bottles.” However 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.”

And frankly, now there are such excellent eco alternatives out there, there's seems to be very few good reasons to use plastic glitter.