The Glitter Hangover…What Happens After The Festival?

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Autumn 2018


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The Rise of Glitter and Its Imminent Doom:

After another summer comes to a close, the festival season with its elaborate outfits, flamboyant make up and crazy behaviour is put away for the colder months. But will the same fashion trends return? Even when people are aware of the environmental impacts?

 The popularity in wearing glitter pretty much everywhere has risen with festival attendees over past years, so has the amount of research into how this affects our planet. Will this fun craze of covering beards, covering faces and even swapping clothes for glitter come to an end? It’s no secret that music festivals have negative impacts on the environment, is it the Event Manager’s job to change this?

Pixabay- ktphotography

So What Actually Is In Our Glitter?

Most glitter is made up of tiny bits of coloured shiny plastic called microplastics, meaning glitter is mainly plastic with aluminium foil bonded to it, making it shiny.  The plastic used to make glitter which we love to use so much is non–biodegradable, such as copolymer plastic or aluminium foil. This means we cannot recycle any glitter we use in festivals, makeup, body scrubs etc.  Various companies make glitter different ways – it is primarily composed of very tiny flecks of glass, stone, paper, plastic or polyester. The most standard way to make glitter is with tiny bits of PET and aluminium foil, however sadly PET is a plastic made up of cancer causing toxins.  Plastic is less than five millimetres in diameter which means they are too small to breakdown, therefore ending up in landfill or down drains into oceans. Researchers such as Dr Trisia Farrelly and Anas Ghadouani claimed glitter is a global hazard from toxins and the chemicals that it releases while in the ocean. It is estimated that 51 trillion pieces of microplastic have entered the oceans, which pass through the food chain to eventually end up in the food we eat.

Not so pretty now?

Pexels- Jimmy Jimmy

Environmental Impacts:

Everyone knows the damage created by plastic. Shops in the UK now charge for plastic bags, #savetheturtles is used at every turn on social media, and petitions are popping up to reduce the amount of plastic used in our everyday lives. But what about our festivals?  Glittery outfits, glittery hair, and glittery make up… you name it, we put glitter on it. In fact, once the festival season has been and gone, approximately 85% of micro plastics found in the environment have come from this festival fashion trend. So why is it this trend still stands strong despite the global movement on reducing plastic pollution?

So what should we do about it? Festivals have promised to ban glitter in the near future but is that the best option? Dr Thompson, a Marine Biology professor at Plymouth University suggested a ban is “premature”. Thompson has suggested instead of a ban, we should first consider the idea of proper product use. This comes after he conducted an experiment which could not prove the micro plastics found in marine life originally came from our glitter.

However, according to the National Geographic, scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of glitter, explaining micro plastics have the ability to starve sea birds once it gets into their stomachs.

So this poses a debate; should we ban glitter based on a lack of concrete evidence of how it’s affecting our marine life, or should we see how far down the line we get before we are able to find that evidence?

Inkmedia- Wikimedia Commons

Events Banning Glitter and How Event Managers Can Overcome These Obstacles:

 The sheer volume of glitter that is used at festivals makes it the perfect place to start to improve and change the type of glitter that we use.

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) run a ‘Drastic on Plastic’ campaign with 60+ members including; Bestival, Boomtown, Boardmasters, Rewind and Secret Garden Party. This initiative aims to target single use plastics which includes; drinks and toiletry bottles, straws, food trays, cable ties and glitter.  Commercially produced glitter will fall under this ban because it is made from the micro plastic PET. Is your event part of this association and campaign stopping the use of plastic? Would the consumer be more drawn to your event if it was acting more responsible?

Biodegradable glitter is the alternative we are encouraging festival-goers to use. It looks and feels exactly the same, but does not harm the environment. Stephen Cotton, a British scientist, has helped to create a biodegradable eco-glitter which is made from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminium. Cotton worries that festival-goers may be less likely to purchase this as they may not believe it will be as durable as regular glitter. However, this eco-glitter is biodegradable meaning very little will end up in our oceans. Event managers only allowing biodegradable glitter at their events would make a major statement in their aim to be more sustainable and environmentally aware. Festival organisers are forcing traders to only allow biodegradable glitter onsite at their festival, which can make consumers more aware of alternatives and eliminate these environmental problems.

The glitter is stored in recyclable plastic dispensers and the actual glitter is 92% plastic free as well as marine and wastewater biodegradable. With this invention of biodegradable glitter, surely there is no reason for festivals to allow the use of regular glitter? But as an event manager, how easy is it to prevent the use of regular glitter at  festivals? This depends on how you, as an event manager, go about the ban. The brilliant thing about festival fashion is creativity, so you can go wild with these ideas, however here’s one for you; offer biodegradable glitter make overs on site. These can be run low cost by volunteers, and you can even charge a charitable donation for the make overs in order to make your event that little bit more environmentally friendly.

So, Event Managers everywhere, is this our responsibility? What are you going to do to help with this issue?


Flickr- Mídia NINJA


Dominic Weager says:

Interesting article for which I don’t really have an answer! I would always say that without evidence there’s not much of a case? But then again, from experience, there is nothing i despise more than cleaning up a sea of confetti after an event! 🙂

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thank you for your response Dominic! I agree, there is a lot of research going into confetti and glitter at the moment as there has been evidence of how big an impact it is having on our environment! Hopefully this won’t be an issue for you much longer and you can start using biodegradable glitter and confetti for the events!

John Lannon says:

An interesting subject. My main concern is one of enforcement? Are you going to eject a ticket paying customer for wearing glitter at a festival? What about if you encourage bio degradable glitter; can you tell the difference?

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thanks for your response John! There isn’t going to be much events managers can do if the glitter is already on the customers body as they will have no right in telling them to take it off. If it is in their bag the new norm is to search peoples bags for food, drink, alcohol and drugs so it would be quite easy to look for glitter throughout this. There isn’t a significant difference between glitter and biodegradable glitter other than one is so much better for the environment, hopefully shops will start selling biodegradable glitter for when this ban takes place in the next few years (if the ban happens). We are hoping event managers will start having biodegradable stands for glitter for free as this will then decrease the amount of harmful glitter is being brought into events.

John Lannon says:

Thanks, why don’t these festivals take the lead and provide free bio-degradable glitter for all? That way, anyone wanting to wear glitter all over their body can do so, safe in the knowledge that it is more environmentally friendly than some they get in shops…

theglitterhangover2018 says:

You’re thinking our way John! We know this will be a slow process but we believe that the most effective way to make the change would be for event managers to provide bio glitter on site. The best part about this idea is that bio glitter is priced very similarly (if not the same) as regular glitter, so there would be minimal cost for event managers to endure whilst still being eco-friendly. It’s a win-win!

Reducing any plastic at any event for me a must, to be honest I had not really thought about glitter but as you say there is a huge impact with the amounts used at major events! I feel it’s all of our problem and we need to act now, I would like to make all events completely plastic free and we are currently looking at putting in place non plastic options for the future!

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Exactly Nicola! Thank you for the reply! I think the main issue is a lot of people aren’t aware of how bad glitter is for the environment and how much damage it is currently doing! As there is such a push on plastics not being used, such as bottles and straws being replaced with re-useable bottles and paper straws, I think we as event managers should push the smaller concerns like glitter, to avoid it becoming a larger problem! Great that you feel the same way that we do with making events plastic free! Do you have any suggestions on how we could act on banning non biodegradeable glitter?

Hannah Fuller says:

Very interesting read and something that Event Managers should deal with – however, even with the strictest terms given before the festival, it’s difficult to think of a way to confirm that that has worked short of searching every bag that comes in I would think!

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Hannah, Thank you for your reply!

We agree completely! We think festivals and events should make people aware of the damage that regular glitter causes before the festival takes place to make them consider what they’re buying when they are purchasing glitter. Another idea is that festivals could offer glitter tents where people can either use biodegradable glitter or have beauticians decorate their faces for them using only environmentally friendly alternatives. This could perhaps discourage people from using standard glitter as much as possible.

Bethany Presgrave says:

Why are we waiting to see the full extent of harm this is doing on our environment? We as Event Managers need to act now in spreading the word on environmentally friendly alternatives. Not only will it educate, it will cause a headline for the festival. Whether this is perceived positively or negatively, I believe it will be a win-win scenario! Afterall, with so much competition between festivals nowadays, any press is good press!

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Bethany, Thank you for your comment! It is great to see someone who shares the same passion as us on this topic! I think the issue is awareness, if people knew the environmental impact that standard glitter has, it would encourage them to buy the biodegradable alternative. Personally, we have seen the #SaveTheTurtles initiative discourage people from choosing plastic straws, it should be the same with glitter.

Courtney says:

This is an interesting issue that I hadn’t heard about before and had no idea was such a big talking point at the moment.
I would argue that it is the event managers responsibility to produce environmentally sustainable events, but is this particular issue their responsibility to fix? Should the government be putting things into place to ensure that all glitter producers change to bio-degradable? If attendees can still buy the regular glitter externally, how can event managers police this at their events?

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Courtney,

Thank you for your comment!
That is a really good point! It would reduce the problem by a substantial amount if these measures were put in place from a government level. It is known that some festivals check bags for food, alcohol, drugs, etc.. so in this sense glitter could also be found. However if the festivals made attendees aware of the damages glitter can do to the environment, they would be more aware when purchasing glitter and hopefully choose the biodegradable alternative.

Katie Wilber - says:

This is a very interesting article and something I have to admit I had never considered! With so many festivals and events throughout the world this would have a staggering effect!

Having read your article I will pass this information on and be sure to only recommend biodegradable glitter (if glitter must be used) from now on! If more people knew the environmental impact I’m sure far more would choose not to glitter up! Thank you for raising this!

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thank you for your comment Katie!

We’re glad to hear our blog has increased awareness in the industry and that you will spread the word!

Lauren says:

Love this blog! If this does come into action and more people are aware of the bio-degradable glitter how will the event manager be able to differentiate the two when clearing up a festival etc?

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hello Lauren and thank you for your response! There is no real way to distinguish between the two (biodegradable and micro plastic glitter) the real main one when people have been clearing up after festivals recently they tend to hose them away and they do tend to go down the drains, but with the biodegradable glitter it will be metabolised by microorganisms in the sewage system so very little or none will end up in our oceans. Which I’m sure you will agree is a massive step up from where we are now with the environmental impacts. Would love to know more of your comments on this.

Becca says:

What an superb, informative blog. As an event manager, where many of our party goers wear glitter, this is certainly ‘food for thought’. Personally I feel think cutting down on all plastic is vital for the environment, however as an event manager it would be very difficult to distinguish between plastic and biodegradable glitter! Would I be able to turn someone away with a ticket because they are wearing glitter? It’s a difficult one!

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thank you Becca for your response! It is difficult to distinguish between them and no event manager wants to lose money by turning away a paying customer! It all really depends on what event it is and wether you have stalls inside offering the biodegradable glitter! What you have said is a very hard situation and I’m sure different events are going to be handling glitter in different ways in the future! We would love to know what you are going to do to help with these issues over glitter!

Antonia says:

Brilliant blog. As an events manager this has certainly given me something to consider. I totally agree with banning plastic glitter. We need to protect our fragile planet! This will need careful planning and would need to be very obvious in the terms and conditions/ dress code- it would be difficult to turn someone with a purchased ticket away at the door because they are wearing glitter.

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Antonia, thank you for your reply!

Yes, indeed we do!
From our point of view, we believe spreading the word as much as possible to festival goers will help decrease the issue by a substantial amount as they would hopefully choose the biodegradable alternative. The festivals themselves could also promote biodegradable glitter by hosting glitter tents using only environmentally friendly products.

Shannon says:

This is a great blog and has definitely informed me about the dangers that glitter cause to the environment, as I was not aware of how much damage something so tiny can cause. Is it actually possible though to ban glitter at events completely? I think it would be hard to stop people once they have already glued it onto them before entering the event. You could definitely provide eco-friendly glitter within events, but would this come at a higher cost that usual glitter? To prevent glitter, you would need to stop shops selling non-biodegradable glitter, but would this ever actually happen?

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Shannon, thanks for your comment!
Banning glitter at festivals is definitely going to take some time and immediately banning glitter could potentially be counter productive, so we think that gradually introducing a ban would be best.
Eco friendly glitter is actually priced the same as regular glitter, so there would be no additional cost! We hope that gradually removing regular glitter from festivals will encourage shops to sell more eco friendly glitter as an alternative.

Jay says:

This is a really interesting post and a great topic. I already knew glitter was harmful to the environment but I had to idea how it was or the extent to which it is harmful. Instead of waiting for more evidence to build I definitely think action should be taken now as a preventative measure instead of a necessary one. If biodegradable glitter becomes widely available at a competitive price then I think most people would be happy to make the swap because they won’t be losing out whilst also making a positive difference, however until this is the case I think it will be difficult to spread the word, especially as absolutely everything is now available covered in glitter.

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Hi Jay, thanks for your reply! It’s great to hear that people support our ideas! You’re right that it will be difficult, but hopefully this is the start of us all pulling together to make our events more eco-friendly!

Natasha says:

Great topic, glitter is so harmful! I think it should be banned, however as mentioned in other comments, it isn’t easy to tell the different between glitter and biodegradable glitter – maybe event managers could begin by educating their attendees? I think not many people are aware of the effects of glitter on the environment, so maybe by distributing information and offering alternatives, event managers could encourage the public to make the switch, before enforcement becomes necessary.

We would appreciate your thoughts on our blog post, where we talk about other event factors that affect environmental sustainability:

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thanks Natasha! We completely agree and there isn’t enough people who know the damages that the glitter is causing on the environment. I agree that the event managers need to make their consumers aware of the impacts and that way they are also spreading the word about how damaging glitter can be.

Richard says:

It’s everyone’s job to save the planet. I love the idea of bio-degradable glitter and this sounds like a ready answer to this problem. Event Managers should adopt the ‘precautionary principle’ and ban non-biodegradable glitter and endorse degradable alternatives. They could seek to influence glitter manufacturers and encourage them to change production strategies. They have a great opportunity to lead in actions that offer alternatives to plastics and help educate events goers and influence their behaviour. Event managers should promote and align themselves with a growing consumer movement concerned with addressing, what is appearing now as, a global imperative requiring immediate action.

theglitterhangover2018 says:

Thank you Richard! I’m glad you agree with us about using biodegradable glitter! It would be good for the manufacturers to take a stand against glitter destroying the environment (We hadn’t considered, but will definitely take into consideration) and take a lead so other companies follow suit with what they are achieving by creating biodegradable glitter for their consumers.

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