Eco-Friendly Glitter

Eco-Friendly Glitter

Anna Wright, Writer

Approximately 380 million tons of plastic is produced every year, of which single use plastics make up 40 percent. While some may claim to habitually recycle, 91 percent of plastic still never sees a second life. National Geographic reports that the amount of plastic entering the ocean per year is expected to reach 29 million metric tons by 2040. In order to prevent this prediction from occurring, many have traded their plastic straws in for metal or their grocery bags in for cloth. Following this trend, scientists have developed a method to exchange plastic glitter for cellulose.

Although various companies are capable of producing cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), the treatment of CNC to produce optical visuals remained unknown; that is until researchers from the University of Cambridge applied a role to role (R2R) technique following these six steps:

  1. A plastic sheet (the “web”) is activated, preventing uncontrolled movement of the CNC suspension.
  2. An aqueous suspension of CNC is poured onto the web.
  3. The CNC suspension either dries in ambient conditions or passes through a hot air dryer.
  4. The CNC suspension dries into a film and is peeled from the web.
  5. The CNC film undergoes heat treatment.
  6. CNC film is grinded and size sorted.

The scientists additionally conclude that the CNC particles “retained their optical response after a year without fading or dispersing, even in water.” Thus, the CNC particles have the potential to replace microplastic glitter, mitigating their impact on the environment. 


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