Scientists at Cambridge University have created a sustainable and biodegradable glitter made from fruit. The plant-based glitter is vegan, non-toxic, and just as sparkly as its plastic counterpart.
Glitter is widely used in schools, arts and crafts, and cosmetics. But, unfortunately, it’s made of toxic materials that contribute to plastic pollution. The cosmetics industry uses nearly 5500 tonnes of microplastics each year in Europe alone.
The sustainable sparkles are made from cellulose nanocrystals extracted from plants, vegetables, and wood pulp. These nanocrystals can bend light to create vivid colours through a process similar to those in nature called structural colour phenomena, such as peacock feathers and butterfly wings.
“Conventional pigments, like your everyday glitter, are not produced sustainably,” said Professor Silvia Vignolini, senior author, Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry. “They get into the soil, the ocean and contribute to an overall level of pollution. Consumers are starting to realise that while glitters are fun, they also have real environmental harms.”
Using a roll-to-roll process, like how paper is made from wood pulp, the cellulose nanocrystals film can be made at an industrial scale. After producing the large-scale cellulose films, the researchers ground them into fine particles, producing non-toxic, biodegradable glitter.
According to the scientists, the plant-based glitter can replace plastic glitter and mineral pigments widely used in cosmetics. It also claims that the hues will not fade, even after 100 years.
“We believe this product could revolutionise the cosmetics industry by providing a fully sustainable, biodegradable and vegan pigment and glitter,” said Vignolini.
Although optimisation of the process is still needed, the researchers said they hope to make the product commercially available in the future.