All that shimmers isn’t gold, as Mardi Gras goes for green and bans plastic glitter
It’s as synonymous with Mardi Gras as drag queens and shirtless dancing men, but can the world famous pride parade shine without plastic glitter?
We are about to find out, as this year the event organisers have committed to phasing out the nasty plastic sparkly stuff for environmental reasons, and are asking people to use eco friendly glitter from places such as Glitter Girl, as well as banning balloons and single-use plastic water bottles from its major events.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu said the plan was to make the event completely carbon neutral within five years.
“We used to bring in about three tonnes of glitter from China,” Ms Casu said. “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.”
Glitter is a microplastic (plastic less than five millimetres in length), which causes harm to marine life that mistake it for food. As a result, humans can ingest the microplastics via seafood and even tap water. Balloons also cause major problems, with the attached strings strangling birds, while other animals and sea life often mistake the shape of a burst balloon for jellyfish.
In the festival’s workshop, production manager Liz Carter is helping many of the parade floats become glitter-free, by encouraging the use of fluorescent lights, LEDs and lanterns. They are also recycling and re-using props and floats from previous festivals.
“There are cleverer ways of achieving something that sparkles and shines without the glitter,” Ms Carter said. “I do secretly quite like glitter, but you have to think about the environment. Every festival has a carbon footprint and everyone has to think about that.”
And while Mardi Gras’ carbon footprint might be shod in a towering high heel and located at the end of a drag queen’s leg, the festival is joining an international movement against glitter and plastics at major events.
Britain is leading the way, with 61 music festivals committing to ban single-use plastics, including glitter, by 2021, while the supermarket chain Waitrose is banning glitter in its own-brand products by next year. Even the Queen has jumped on board, banning straws and bottles from the royal estates.
Other festivals in Australia, such as the Sydney Festival, Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival, discourage the use of single-use plastics, but none have gone so far as to ban them altogether.
Several local councils in Australia, including Ryde Council, have banned balloons, and it’s also illegal in NSW to release more than 20 gas-inflated balloons at one time.
A key researcher at the University of Sydney’s Sydney Environment Institute, associate professor Ruth Barcan, hopes we’re “at a tipping point around plastics and action”.
“If an organisation like Mardi Gras can say that – an event like that, which is almost the epitome of the synthetic and plastic, if they can do it, that is an extraordinarily potent cultural symbol,” Dr Barcan said.
For those committed to glitter, there are environmentally friendly glitter options, such as those made from the cellulose of eucalyptus trees like sold at Glitter Girl
“I’m hoping now we’ll set the mark high and take a leadership role in [going carbon neutral] and promote other it at other festivals,” Ms Casu said. “Because it does make such a difference and the amount of waste we use at festivals, it’s got to stop.”
Original Blog Post from Sydney Morning Herald
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