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Nursery children banned from using glitter

Article By: Sue Learner

At a time of year, when children are making Christmas cards sprinkled with shiny glitter, a nursery boss has taken the decision to ban it from all of her 19 nurseries, due to the damage it is doing to the environment.

Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops Day Nurseries in the south of England, has taken the bold step after becoming aware of how hazardous glitter is for the environment.

She told “I’ve taken the decision to stop all my nurseries ordering any more glitter, because glitter is a microplastic, just like microbeads, which are to be banned in the UK.”

Parents are used to their children coming home clutching a painting or drawing adorned with sparkly glitter and so this move could prove to be unpopular.

'Glitter is just pretty, serving no actual purpose'

Despite this, Ms Hadland is determined to pursue this policy, saying “we also love our health, food and our environment, and I would suggest that these things are very important whereas glitter is just pretty, serving no actual purpose.

“The responsible choice is to stop buying and using microplastics. If we stop buying it the retailers and wholesalers will stop supplying it, and with any luck the politicians will ban it or at least put a prohibitive tax on it.”

Microbeads are already on their way out with Environment Minister Nick Smith announcing in July that cosmetics and products such as toothpaste, containing tiny plastic pieces called microbeads, will be banned next year.

Causing stunted growth and altered behaviour patterns

These tiny pieces of plastic end up in the ocean and are swallowed by marine life, including fish and crustaceans, causing stunted growth and altering behaviour patterns.

However, these microbeads are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Trisia Farrelly, a social anthropologist at Massey University in New Zealand, who says glitter can also “have a devastating impact on humans and non-human animals”.

Glitter does not break down

Glitter makes its way to the ocean and never breaks down and is just as much of a problem, according to Ms Farrelly, an expert in waste plastics. She says that it is “no-brainer for glitter and microfibres, we have to stop producing them.”

Cheryl Hadland, who is doing a course in Sustainable Leadership at Cambridge University, and is very passionate about the environment, said: “Glitter microplastics are an increasing problem, they are virtually impossible to remove from the environment once there.

“Large pieces of plastic break down slowly so there is at least the opportunity to pick it up, or sieve it, but when we’ve finished using plastic glitter for play, decorating a card, sprinkling it into playdough or glue or painting with it, or even decorating our own faces, hair and nails, it goes into a bin or into the sink.

“It can’t be recycled because it isn’t practical to do so, it’s too small to separate out.

“If you are lucky it might get incinerated, but otherwise it enters the environment whether landfill, or through the air being blown around; it sticks to people's hands and goes down the sink into the water system; it sticks to people's clothes or mops and goes through the washing machine and into the water system.”

Biodegradable glitter

Ms Hadland is also very against biodegradable glitter which some people use as an alternative as she says: “Even biodegradable glitter goes the same way, and unfortunately biodegradable stuff does not biodegrade away from the sun and oxygen, so in the sea or water it will more than likely be there forever unless a sea creature eats it, so don’t be fooled into buying biodegradable glitter either.”

However Olivia Moon, owner of Wild Glitter, which sells environmentally friendly biodegradable glitter, refutes this, saying: "Cheryl Hadland seems to be under the impression that it won't biodegrade without sunlight or oxygen. Whilst this is certainly the case for oxy-degradable plastics like the ones used for "biodegradable" plastic bags, our bio-glitter is based on a film made from wood pulp, and biodegrades in seawater and soil - all it needs is some friendly microbes to get the process going."

Ms Hadland has already made some changes in her nurseries - to minimize any damage being done to the environment. These include ditching plastic aprons and using cloth ones instead, and banning straws and balloons as well as one use plastic cups, cutlery or plates. The children are also encouraged to recycle and to care for the environment.

click here for more details or to contact Tops Day Nurseries


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