The world’s biggest carnival has lit up the streets of Brazil – with colorful performances, ecstatic revelers, awestruck tourists and well, lots and lots of glitter. The carnival, famous for its samba street parties where most revelers make an appearance with colorful glitter smeared over their bodies, has come under the scrutiny of activists who warn about the glitter’s environmental impact.
Felipe Gusmão, an adjunct professor of biodiversity and conservation at the Federal University of São Paulo’s Marine Science Institute in Santos, said the problem with glitter is that it is usually made of microplastics, which are less than five millimetres in size and impossible to remove from the environment.
Although new “sustainable glitter” products are finding favor in Brazil with environmentally conscious carnival-goers, poorer Brazilians complain they are too expensive. Other carnival-goers say they are reducing their glitter consumption – but not cutting it out.