Australian Mardi Gras celebration bans glitter: report

Glitter in a workshop used by a New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe in 2009.

Glitter in a workshop used by a New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe in 2009.

A Mardi Gras celebration in Australia says it’s done with the sparkly stuff.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is phasing out glitter for environmental reasons.

"We used to bring in about three tons of glitter from China," event organizer Terese Casu told the Herald. "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."

Most glitter is made of plastic, a material that’s emerging as a major pollutant in the world’s waterways. Tiny bits of plastic are especially harmful. They are magnets for chemicals and other pollutants and are easily mistaken for food by fish and other marine life.

Glitter remains a major part of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations. No such bans have been announced locally.

Post-celebration glitter washes down drains in New Orleans just as it does in Sydney. Much of the stuff eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, which already has one of the highest concentrations of plastic pollution.

Last year, Louisiana State University oceanographer Mark Benfield told WWNO a plastic glitter ban would be a good idea for the Gulf. He noted several companies make glitter that biodegrades.

“So certainly we have the technology to make alternatives that are environmentally friendly,” Benfield said.

The Sydney Mardi Gras isn’t stopping with glitter. Organizers say they’re also cutting out balloons and single-use plastic bottles, and encouraging the lighting of floats with fluorescent lights, LEDs and lanterns.

As the event’s production manager told the Herald, “there are cleverer ways of achieving something that sparkles and shines.”

Read the Sydney Morning Herald’s full report.