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Glitter providers warn of industry greenwashing

by Nicola Macdonald

The Glastonbury stance on reducing plastic pollution, including a ban on non-biodegradable glitter, hit the headlines this year, but glitter makers are warning that some unscrupulous firms are misleading customers about their green credentials in order to continue to sell to the festival market.

In a move dubbed ‘greenwashing’, some companies are rebranding plastic products as biodegradable and eco-friendly.

Stephen Cotton, commercial director at Ronald Britton Ltd, manufacturer of plastic-free glitter, Bioglitter™ PURE, said: “Greenwashing is a frustrating and major issue for us. We know of a number of glitter products and glitter sellers targeting the festivals market who are making misleading and dishonest claims about the eco credentials of their products, when in fact the raw material in some cases is simply plastic glitter.”

Sophie Awdry, co-founder of Eco Glitter Fun, added: “The danger of greenwashing is a real worry for us and the environment. Consumers are trying to do the right thing but are conned into believing they are purchasing a product which isn’t harmful but in fact is no different than plastic in terms or environmental microplastic pollution.”

According to both companies, the science behind eco-friendly products is complex, leaving it open to abuse.

Awdry continued: “Being a complex subject there is a good deal of greenwashing occurring. There are a lot of companies claiming their glitter is biodegradable, but biodegradable is just a word and doesn’t actually mean anything, unless qualified in terms of how much biodegrades, over how long, and in what conditions. If it takes 100 years to biodegrade, if just one small part of the product biodegrades or it needs composting conditions, then it’s not eco-friendly in terms the natural environment.”

Cotton commented: “There are several glitters on the market claiming to be biodegradable because they contain a percentage of material that can possibly compost or has the word ‘cellulose’ in the name, such as PLA, Cellulose Acetate or Cellophane (1930’s cellulose technology). None of these products have the level of performance to actually biodegrade in the natural environment, so in terms of microplastic pollution materials like PLA, Cellulose Acetate and Cellophane are no better than plastic.”

According to Awdry and Cotton, consumers need to look for whether the brand displays independent proof of biodegradability of the finished glitter product in the natural environment.

Ronald Britton Ltd has launched a scheme to ensure consumers know the sparkles they buy are actually environmentally friendly and genuine Bioglitter™.

Cotton concluded: “Bioglitter™ is a unique product worldwide, basically it is the only naturally degradable glitter available on the market, with independent testing and verification. This puts us in a unique position to help tackle green washing in the glitter market. We’ve been working with brands who sell glitter, the likes of Eco Glitter Fun and larger brands, as well as big retailers like Primark and Monsoon, Accessorize to set up a scheme, so consumers know that glitter in the product is genuine Bioglitter™ and a true green product.

“Most of the companies that now sell genuine ‘natural environment biodegradable’ glitter or use it in their products, display our Bioglitter™ logo either on the packaging itself or on their website. We also list all companies authorised to use our Bioglitter™ trade mark registered branding to prevent any ‘passing off’.

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