Wednesday, 26 February 2020


The word glitter (from Proto-Germanic origin *glit-, preceding something shining, bright, and Old English glitenian, to shine, to be distinguished) has remained intangible through literature since the 1600s, you could find it glistening across the surface of the eyes, lining the edges of waves. In the 1930s it was assigned it's physical product, developed in a New Jersey farm, on the east coast of the USA, where a machine was constructed which could cut scrap material down into very small pieces. This farm became Meadowbrook Inventions Inc, which still produces bulk glitter today, down to 50 microns, or 0.05mm. 

Microplastics are classed as any plastic fragments less than 5mm. Microbeads measure from 0.5mm down to 0.0005mm, and are often added to cosmetic products: toothpaste, exfoliants and household cleaning products. Also known as primary microplastics (secondary microplastics being deteriorations of larger plastic objects), microbeads have begun recieving a series of worldwide bans on their applications, which have been coming into effect since 2018. Nanoplastics are a further disintegration down, to a scale small enough to begin passing through biological barriers, from gut to blood, blood to brain, and are identified with a size less than 0.001mm. At this size plastic can interact with our body on biological terms; known to disrupt certain hormones, and to easily transport and deliver toxins. 

This puts glitter as an example of a microbead plastic that you can buy in bulk from most supermarkets and local shops. With a scale similar to sand, which is defined as particles between 2mm and 0.05mm, glitter and other plastic particles easily corrode, often in water and aided by UV exposure from the sun, tracing the same erosion that divides rocks into sand, into silt, into clay. Whilst glitter is only a small percentage of a wider range of microplastics (visible mainly in the sea, but also found in earth samples and airborne) it is also well on it's way to disintegrating into a nanoplastic . In it's original form it is not on the scale to enter the bloodstream, but it can easily pass through the digestive system, with current human fecal samples almost always containing traces of microplastics. For this reason glitter is commonly used by zoologists: mixed into animals food to then be able to colour co-ordinate their poo, for various health tests as well as providing hormonal data sets, one outcome of this being to determine how stressed the animals are.
The raw sheet material of glitter is aluminium metalised polytheylene terephthalate. Polytheylene is the most widely used plastic, in carrier bags, plastic bottles, thermoset toys; with more tightly knitted composites producing fibers strong enough to replace Kevlar in bullet proof vests, and a loosely knitted, low density version such as cling-film. Polytheylene terephthalate (PET plastic), because of its transparency in raw form and ability to retain liquids, is used to make water bottles, whilst a version with wider mesh can be seen in polyester clothing, and wider in the fabric used for screenprinting. These reels of PET material are almost chromed, or metalised, with a layer of aluminium powder applied, to give it a reflective, mirrored surface, and then cut.
made from petroleum ?

I would like to look into the ban on microbeads that was speculated in the UK over the last years, maybe only banned for festivals? Or a countrywide ban on it as a material ? 

When dozens of British music festivals pledged to ban single-use plastics by 2021, the proposed ban included plastic glitter

To look into the currently legalities of it, with an interest in when law and materials cross, thinking asbestos, and with the insulation that caused Grenfell, maybe not to specifically talk about these, but just in terms of how to approach this section. 

There is one specific case from Florida of glitter being used to prove a case of homocide within this car crash,, I'd like to look into, where airborn glitter found on a vehicle linked with the driver who was denying responsibility, and it's similarity with other forensic or materials for security, fingerprint dust, dye packs to mark stolen money, etc. 

Glitter production

Polythene / PET

Microplastics + Nanoplastics

Microbeads/plastics, Glitter + Law


Nanoplastics + Health / toxins

Glitter use - Zoology + Criminology

Extras/ old:

Glitter should be banned over environmental impact, scientists warn
While many microplastics result from plastic debris breaking down into ever-smaller pieces, tiny particles called microbeads are manufactured specifically for addition to cosmetic and health products.
A ban on microbeads will come into force in the UK next year, after scientists and campaigners made the devastating impact clear. Glitter could be an overlooked component in the wider problem of marine plastic pollution, and they are used in a wide range of products.
Most glitter is made of aluminium and a plastic called PET. Dr Farrelly has investigated how PET can break down to release chemicals that disrupt hormones in the bodies of animals and humans. Such chemicals have been linked with the onset of cancers and neurological diseases.
“No one knows that glitter is made of plastic,” says Noemi Lamanna, co-founder of eco- friendly glitter distributor Eco Glitter Fun. “We were heartbroken when we found out.”

Glitter as forensic evidence in Florida car crash homocide
A highway in Florida had a center lane that was only supposed to be used for turning. A vehicle containing a mother and her daughter was stopped in this lane when a pickup truck driving in the center lane smashed into the stopped vehicle and both the mother and daughter were killed. When police arrived no one was in the pickup truck. However, an intoxicated woman was found hiding nearby in the brush. She denied being the driver, but she was wearing cosmetic glitter and at the instant of impact some of her glitter was transferred to the driver’s side airbag.