7 Microplastic Horrors Lurking in Common Childhood Items

By Danielle Vick

Modern parents are frequently so stretched thin, we grasp at anything even remotely affordable that will make our kids happier and our lives easier. 

It’s in this vulnerable state that we as parents have often been unduly influenced by the Big Bad Marketing Machine. Products that claim to make our lives easier so often turn out to irrevocably harm our kids’ health and the environment around them (hello spray sunscreen!). 

Despite the following list, take heart. 

Parenting is in a class of its own when it comes to “Hard Things in Life” and there are plenty of ways to leave the earth healthy for our children, and even more ways to raise them to be healthy themselves. 

1. Glitter 

Glitter might be small and seemingly superfluous, but its impact is mighty. There’s even been a call for a global ban on glitter. Made from etched aluminum bonded to sheets of plastic, glitter is too small to be treated at a wastewater treatment facility. Which means it almost always ends up in waterways or landfills where it will live forever as a microplastic. 

If you love that sparkle, there are alternatives to plastic-based glitter, including compostable, vegan and plastic-free bio-glitters.

If you have a stash of glitter already, don’t throw it out! The best way to ensure it doesn’t end up harming wildlife is to use it on a permanent project, like candleholders, glitter jars, photo frames, wall art, or working it into clay.  

2. Silly String 

Long popular at parties and celebrations, Silly String is bright, colourful and the best kind of frivolous. Its only true purpose is to have fun and be silly. 

Although the recipe for Silly String is fiercely protected, we do know that of the liquid inside a can, about 75% is propellant. The rest is made up of a terrifying ingredient list with plenty of carcinogens and dangerous chemicals rendering Silly String not biodegradable. So if not removed, it can clog storm drains and sewer systems. 

If this kind of fun is your thing, make it yourself at home where the most harmful ingredient will be hydrogen peroxide.  

3. Party Favours 

While grounded in a sweet, generous idea, the party favour reality is a bunch of cheap, disposable, plastic toys that will likely outlive your kid, either as tiny pieces of microplastics floating in the ocean, or rotting in a landfill

With 70% of the world’s toys made in China, it’s likely most of your favours originated far from your party.

Plastic is made from petroleum and most of the small, party-favour sized toys are not recyclable. If you can resist the pressure, just say no to party favours.

Otherwise, indulge in one of the scores of eco-friendly party favour suggestions you can find online and give your guests something memorable. 

4. Baby Wipes 

Our love of wet wipes is certainly not limited to babies. Globally, we whip through about 14,000 of them every second. But here’s the truth: wet wipes are yet another single-use, disposable plastic we’ve been trained to need. To make them sturdier than regular old toilet paper most are mixed with plastic

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