Biodegradable glitter made from cellulose

Researchers at the University of Cambridge (UK) developed sustainable, plastic-free glitter for use in cosmetics, made from cellulose found in fruits, vegetables and other plants.

Aside from the personal frustration of finding glitter everywhere after just looking at a bottle of the stuff, glitter is also very environmentally unfriendly, as it is made of fossil fuels.

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge found a way to make sustainable, non-toxic vegan and biodegradable glitter from cellulose. Cellulose is the main building block of cell walls in plants, fruits, vegetables and wood.

The glitter is made from cellulose nanocrystal, which can bend light in such a way, it creates vivid colors through a process called structural colour. The same phenomenon appears in nature, like on butterfly wings and peacock feathers. These are hues that do never fade.

The glitter is made using self-assembly techniques that allow the cellulose to produce intensely colored films. It is just as sparkly as its unsustainable counterpart and can replace that as well as tiny mineral effect pigments in cosmetics. In Europe alone, the cosmetics industry uses about 5,500 tonnes of microplastics every year.

The production process is compatible with existing industrial-scale machines, yet the process is far less energy intensive than conventional methods.

While the glitter wil be no less annoying when doing an art craft project with small children, at least it won’t harm the planet and is safe to even eat.

A similar product is produced by US-based company BioGlitz.

Photos: University of Cambridge / Bio-inspired Photonics group