By Joe Morgan via SWNS
A new type of biodegradable glitter that is non-toxic and vegan can be produced on an industrial scale to help the environment.
Scientists have called for a complete ban on glitter saying it is causing an environmental disaster.
Because glitter is so small, marine life mistakes it for food which in turn damages their livers and affects their function.
But the new sparkly decoration is made out of cellulose - the main building block of cell walls in plants, fruits and vegetables – and that is just as sparkly as the original.
Traditional glitter is made up of bits of a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which goes by the trade name Mylar.
A 2014 study estimated there are about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic weighing a total of around 270,000 tons floating in the world's seas. Microplastics, also made of flakes from larger items like bottles and bags, made up 92.4 percent of the total count.
The new biodegradable glitter is made from cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood pulp, which can bend light in such a way to create vivid colors through a process called structural color.
The same phenomenon produces some of the brightest colors in nature – such as those of butterfly wings and peacock feathers – and results in hues that do not fade, even after a century.
Researchers say, while biodegradable glitter has been on the market before, this is the first time these materials have been fabricated at an industrial scale.
In addition, the process is far less energy-intensive than conventional methods.
Benjamin Droguet, Ph.D. student and researcher at the University of Cambridge, said: "The challenge has been how to control conditions so that we can manage all the physical-chemical interactions simultaneously, from the nanoscale up to several meters, so that we can produce these materials at scale.
“Traditionally, effect pigment minerals have to be heated at temperatures as high as 800°C (1,472°F) to form pigment particles.
"When you consider the quantity of mineral effect pigments that is produced worldwide, you realize that their use is harmful to the planet."
Professor Silvia Vignolini, also at the University of Cambridge, said: “Conventional pigments, like your everyday glitter, are not produced sustainably.
“They get into the soil, the ocean and contribute to an overall level of pollution. Consumers are starting to realize that while glitters are fun, they also have real environmental harms.”
She added: “We believe this product could revolutionize the cosmetics industry by providing a fully sustainable, biodegradable and vegan pigment and glitter.
“It will be just as annoying – but it won’t harm the planet and is safe for your little ones."
The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials.
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