Marks & Spencer has joined the effort against microplastics by banning glitter from this year’s Christmas cards, wrapping paper, calendars and crackers.

The retailer, which last year tested a biodegradable alternative to glitter on its fresh flowers and plants, said it is aiming to be 100% glitter-free by the end of next year.

The move comes amid increasing concern about single-use plastics such as straws and cups as well as microplastics – tiny particles that can pollute the environment – as highlighted by programmes such as the BBC’s Blue Planet.

Most glitter is made from etched aluminium bonded to polyethylene terephthalate – a form of microplastic that can find its way into the sea.

It is estimated that up to 50tn microplastic particles have accumulated in the ocean, with microplastics present in remote locations including deep sea sediments and arctic sea ice.

A petition launched earlier this year by the campaign group 38 Degrees called on the then environment secretary Michael Gove to ban glitter as part of a government crackdown on single-use plastics. It cited a study showing that up to a third of fish caught in the North Sea contained microplastic particles – including glitter – raising fears about the impact on sea life and humans.

M&S’s action on glitter and plastic comes after Waitrose pledged to ensure own-label cards, wraps, crackers, flowers and plants are either glitter-free or use an environmentally friendly alternative by 2020. Tesco has switched to a plastic-free version for its Christmas range of trees, plants and flowers this year while discount chain Aldi is scrapping plastic glitter from this year’s Halloween range.

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Craft retailer Hobbycraft has also launched biodegradable glitter alternatives and has pledged that its range will be free of plastic glitter by 2021.

The BBC show Strictly Come Dancing banned the use of traditional glitter on the programme last year, while many nursery schools and music festivals in the UK have also axed it.

Paul Willgoss, director of food technology at M&S, said: “We know reducing single-use plastics is as important to our customers as it is to our business.”

M&S said all Christmas stationary designs which previously featured glitter were now recyclable and innovative paper patterns or “minimal” use of foil were providing festive sparkle.

The retailer’s Christmas gifting range of flowers and plants and single-use packaging for food products, will also be glitter free this year. The majority of its boxed cards have also switched from plastic to card packaging, saving almost 50 tonnes of plastic.

M&S said it has already removed 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from across its business and aims to ensure all its packaging is widely recyclable by 2022.



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