Cheryl Hadland, managing director of Tops, a group of 19 settings, explained, ‘We have learnt a lot about the ecological dangers we produce through our day-to-day actions and have recently discovered an unexpected item that has already had a detrimental effect on the environment – glitter.
‘Glitter microplastics are an increasing problem. These tiny, shimmering specs of microplastic are virtually impossible to remove from the environment once there. When we’ve finished using plastic glitter for play, in decorating a card, sprinkling it into playdough or glue or painting with it, it goes into a bin or into the sink. It can’t be recycled because it isn’t practical to do so, it’s too small to separate out.’
Like microbeads, which are be banned in the UK, glitter is made from microplastics – very tiny pieces of plastics (less than 5mm), which cannot be recycled and are difficult to remove from the environment.
Once glitter enters the water system, it moves through the food chain as it is ingested by sea creatures and other animals. According to Ms Hadland, 100 per cent of mussels found off France and Belgium have ingested microplastics and many fish have too, which could threaten human health if ingested in large quantities.
Since learning about the impact glitter is having on the environment, the nursery group has contacted its suppliers, who are researching sustainable alternatives.
Ms Hadland added, ‘To minimise damage being inflicted on the environment we have already stopped using plastic aprons and are using cloth ones instead, and we have removed single-use items such as straws and balloons, as well as one-use plastic cups, cutlery or plates. The children are also encouraged to recycle and to care for the environment.
‘As a company, we have a zero to landfill goal. We have started installing solar panels at our nurseries; we have time and light sensors, timers on water coolers and heaters and fuel saving magnets on gas and water mains. All company cars are electric, the use of electric bikes over driving is encouraged and we have introduced bamboo toothbrushes and recycled paint.
‘As responsible people looking after the next generation, the very last thing we want to be doing is damaging the environment or risking their health, so we need to act now and stop this pollution.
'We hope that our future generation will be more conscientious about their impact on the environment. We welcome support from parents and families, we believe this is a cultural change which will benefit not only us, but our children even more.’