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Banning glitter won’t save the oceans

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This year, retailers have declared war on an unlikely enemy: Christmas glitter. Those sparkly bits of plastic that make ornaments twinkle, wrapping paper glimmer and wreaths shimmer are increasingly seen as an environmental hazard.

In response, three British retailers are eliminating them from gift bags, Christmas crackers and other holiday staples. Thus a more sustainable and guilt-free Christmas will be had by all. Or so the thinking goes.

It’s not a crazy idea. Tiny pieces of plastic are indeed a threat to the environment, and retailers can make a difference in reducing them. But doing so will require far more than banning holiday baubles. It’ll mean rethinking how everyday plastics are manufactured and marketed to consumers in the first place.

Plastic pollution, especially in the ocean, is typically associated with single-use items such as bags and straws. But in recent years, scientists have also focused on the profusion of so-called microplastics, which are about the size of a sesame seed or less. Some of these are generated by the breakdown and abrasion of larger products. But a significant percentage are “primary microplastics,” such as synthetic........

© The Japan Times

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