Mardi Gras has banned balloons and plastic water bottles and will phase out plastic glitter in the parade as the event looks to go carbon neutral over the next five years.
CEO of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras told the Sydney Morning Herald that the organisation was previously importing three tonnes of glitter from China for the event.
“We used to bring in about three tonnes of glitter from China,” Casu said.
“That goes in the gutter, it ends up in our oceans, our fish eat it, you find it in crab shells and oysters. We must be responsible and make really urgent changes.”
Humans can end up ingesting glitter via tap water or through eating certain seafoods.
Balloons have been banned entirely given their potential harm to bird and sea life, as have single-use plastic water bottles.
Liz Carter, production manager at Mardi Gras’ workshop, is helping parade floats become glitter free, opting for fluorescent lights, lanterns and LED lights instead.
Glitter can also now be bought in eco-friendly forms that eschew plastic altogether and are biodegradable, vegan and cruelty-free.
Experts have called for a total ban on microplastic glitter, with research scientist Jennifer Lavers writing for the The Conversation saying that despite the similar ban on microbeads from certain products, research surrounding the environmental impact of glitter is harder to find.
Lavers recommends that the best glitter alternatives will typically be advertised as ‘compostable’ or ‘organic’, with one common naturally occurring glitter alternative, mica, being offered by some retailers in a synthetic form because its mining is linked to child labour.
Other microplastics may be marketed as biodegradable but will only break down using industrial machinery at high temperatures.
“There are cleverer ways of achieving something that sparkles and shines without the glitter,” Carter said.
“I do secretly quite like glitter, but you have to think about the environment. Every festival has a carbon footprint and everyone has to think about that.”
Dozens of UK musical festivals have moved to ban single-use plastics, with Australian festivals slower to follow suit.