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Bioglitter™ response to ARU study recently reported on by the BBC, The Guardian and Cosmetics Business.

Bioglitter News, Industry News, Media

Ronald Britton Ltd’s response to the following articles in the BBC and Guardian on the 15th October 2020 and by Cosmetics Business on the 22nd Oct 2020:

Glitter litter ‘could be damaging rivers’”, “Eco glitter causes same damage to rivers as ordinary product – study” and “Biodegradable glitter is no better for the environment” articles.

We have read with interest the findings of the Applied Ecology Research Group (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge) in the scientific paper ‘All that glitters is litter? Ecological impacts of conventional versus biodegradable glitter in a freshwater habitat’. This paper is the basis for the media reports issued on the 15th October.

Summary response

  1. Genuine Bioglitter™ product was not used in the study.  We sought clarity from the university.
  2. The study was conducted in July 2018.  Genuine Bioglitter™ products even back then were state of the art and in the years since, Bioglitter™ technology has moved further on.  Four out of our five product ranges now achieving OK biodegradable WATER certification from TÜV Austria.
  3. The study claims that only the core of eco glitters are tested for biodegradability and eco toxicity and coatings ignored.  This is not the case with Bioglitter™ products. Testing and certification takes into account the whole product and eco-toxicity.  It’s now been acknowledged by the authors that genuine Bioglitter is tested as a whole finished product and part of the TÜV certification criteria is eco-toxicity evaluation.
  4. We estimate the test environments to be significantly overdosed, upwards of 1000 times greater than might reasonably be expected in terms of glitter as a proportion of all microplastic pollution.
  5. Even inorganic non-biodegradable effect products, such as natural mica and synthetic mica (inorganic mineral material) are shown to have an impact. This suggests that heavily overloading a micro test environment will have some sort of effect.   For example, if you pile sand on grass, it will have an effect on the grass beneath.
  6. The study does not take into account that a product like genuine Bioglitter™ biodegrades in natural, fresh water environments, it does not persist and therefore does not build up over time.
  7. Ronald Britton is the world’s only glitter manufacturer to already offer products that are certified ‘OK biodegradable WATER’ by TÜV Austria. This is the highest level of independent certification for freshwater biodegradability in the world.

It is important to note that in the news stories ‘Eco glitter’ is used to describe both the non-biodegradable mineral-based mica and synthetic mica pigments tested, as well as biodegradable glitter.  All the ‘Eco glitters’ tested are shown to have adverse effects in the study at the high dosage levels used, yet the impression is given that they are all ‘so called biodegradable’ glitters.  This is not the case and suggests an unfair bias towards this one particular type of ‘Eco glitter’ in the reporting.


Detailed response

The glitter dosage used in the study to assess its ecological impact we believe to be orders of magnitude higher (upwards of 1000 times higher) than can be reasonably expected to be found in the environment. The dosage level is based upon studies of total microplastic pollution in rivers, but does not take into account the proportion of which is glitter, nor does it take account the fact that a product like genuine Bioglitter™ will biodegrade and not accumulate in the same way as conventional glitter. Our own worse case estimate is that conventional glitter represents approx. 0.05% of global microplastics pollution.  On this basis the impact of glitter, if any, on the ecological parameters used in the 36 days study would likely be vastly reduced at significantly lower dosages.  However, even at much reduced dosages, we recognise there is still a long-term risk to the environment posed by conventional PET based glitter.

The study also concludes that even natural mica and synthetic mica produce similar results to PET based glitter.  Micas are non-biodegradable, are ubiquitous in use and produce shimmer effects.  They are a completely different type of effect pigment compacted with traditional glitters.  The results in the study are certainly surprising considering micas are inorganic mineral-based pigments and may suggest that heavily overloading a micro test environment, even with an inorganic mineral material will have some sort of effect.  For example, if you put a pile of sand on grass, it will have an effect on the grass beneath.

In response to the environmental problems associated with glitter, British company Ronald Britton Ltd has been on a journey of continual development of its cellulose based Bioglitter™ product ranges.   Ronald Britton is the world’s only glitter manufacturer to already offer products that are certified ‘OK biodegradable WATER’ by TÜV Austria.  This certification demonstrates that these products quickly biodegrade in natural freshwater environments, such as rivers and lakes.  This is the highest level of independent certification for freshwater biodegradability in the world.   https://www.tuv-at.be/green-marks/certifications/ok-biodegradable/

In the ‘All that glitters……………’ paper, it is stated that ‘only the core material of glitter needs to be tested in order to be certified as biodegradable.’  This is factually inaccurate and not the case with Bioglitter™.   All testing and eventual certification of genuine Bioglitter™ products is based on the finished product and takes into account the biodegradability and environmental impact of both the regenerated cellulose core material and the coatings used to impart sparkle and colour.

Consumer products using Ronald Britton’s Bioglitter™ products display our registered Bioglitter™ trade mark to enable consumers to easily identify and ensure its genuine Bioglitter™.

Ronald Britton Ltd remains committed to delivering sparkle with minimal environmental impact.


Andrew Thompson (Technical Director) & Stephen Cotton (Commercial Director)