Less Waste Idea

The Issues With Glow Sticks

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Initially designed for military and civil security use for emergency lighting, glow sticks have purposes as different as tenting lights and night-fishing lures. But, you’ll most frequently see them dangling from the wrists of 7-year-olds at birthday events or brandished on nightclub dance flooring. They’ve turn out to be virtually synonymous with celebrations like Independence Day, Halloween, and music festivals. However after the celebration, what do you do with these plastic wands? Are glow sticks recyclable or reusable? And how will you eliminate them after they cease glowing?

As celebratory as they’re, glow sticks pose a number of issues for the surroundings:

  • They’re disposable, designed for single use.
  • They’re fabricated from plastic.
  • They’re non-recyclable.
  • They include questionable chemical compounds.

Glow Sticks Create Waste

There’s no query that we use plenty of glow sticks. Have a look round after a parade or a live performance. You’ll see 1000’s strewn in regards to the floor. The glowing wands are enormously common. Amazon lists greater than 20,000 completely different merchandise beneath the class “glow sticks.” Get together packs include a whole lot of versatile glow sticks that revelers can trend into glowing necklaces, bracelets, headbands, and extra.

These disposable plastic tubes are single-use plastics — they’ll solely be used as soon as. Whereas they vary on how lengthy their chemical glow lasts, when it stops, they turn out to be waste. However issues about plastic waste don’t appear to be affecting their reputation; a report from Fact.MR initiatives that glow sticks will solely enhance in reputation throughout the subsequent decade.

Are Glow Sticks Poisonous?

Glow sticks use several chemicals to create their trademark glow. One, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), is banned in Europe to be used in cosmetics. The EPA put DBP beneath a threat evaluation to guage well being issues. Particularly, the EPA is trying into DBP’s results on reproductive and developmental health.

Glow sticks are sometimes labeled unhazardous, however customers must be cautious of this declare. The time period unhazardous has no formal definition, in response to the Federal Commerce Fee. In different phrases, a product will be labeled as unhazardous, however no person is being held to account for making the declare.

Regardless of DBP being beneath an EPA evaluation, the North Carolina Poison Control Center states that glow sticks are low in toxicity. They are saying for those who ingest it, to not be “alarmed if lips and tongue glow for a couple of minutes.” You will be the choose on that one.

Close up of hands holding glow sticks
These glow glowing tubes are single-use plastics, including to our rising drawback with plastic waste.

How Ought to I Eliminate My Glow Sticks?

There aren’t plenty of nice choices for secure disposal. The chemicals used in glow sticks contaminate the plastic so it’s not recyclable. Worse, the chemical compounds can leak into soil and water as soon as they’re disposed of.

Some sources advise putting spent glow sticks in plastic bags or bottles earlier than tossing them within the trash. Have you ever ever seen what occurs to trash as soon as it’s picked up? Or watched a video of trash being added to the landfill? It’s exhausting to think about that disposable glow sticks survive the bulldozer intact.

To stop the chemical compounds in conventional glow sticks from coming into the surroundings, we advocate treating them as household hazardous waste (HHW). Find an HHW drop-off location near you the place you may eliminate this stuff safely.

Are There “Inexperienced” Choices?

Once more, a phrase of warning about over-generalized phrases that haven’t any regulatory muscle behind them. “Inexperienced” and “environmentally pleasant” are two phrases generally utilized by entrepreneurs who’re greenwashing the environmental security of their product.

An Amazon seek for “environmentally pleasant glow sticks” yielded 72 outcomes. A better have a look at three merchandise revealed little to point why they have been marketed as “environmentally pleasant.”

That being mentioned, there are barely higher options to single-use chemiluminescent glow sticks.

1. LED Different

There are glow sticks that use LEDs (light-emitting diodes) as a substitute of chemical compounds for his or her mild supply. There are fairly just a few, judging by Amazon’s itemizing of 10,000 products beneath that search.

This Life-Gear’s reusable glow stick use LR44 button batteries that last as long as 200 hours. That’s a far cry from the disposable sticks that final lower than a day. You’ll be able to substitute the batteries to reuse the product time and again. Batteries are e-waste and must be disposed of properly.

2. Photoluminescent Different

UVPaqlite’s photoluminescent glow sticks use massive strontium aluminate crystals. Just like glow-in-the-dark stars that children stick on their partitions, their glow sticks take in ambient mild and glow for as much as 10 hours. Although they solely are available in one shade, UVPaqlite’s model will be recharged indefinitely.

3. Bioluminescent Different

Bioluminescence is the power of dwelling creatures to create their own light. One firm, Nyoka, is utilizing bioluminescence because the inspiration for its different to glow sticks. It has engineered a dissolvable powder that glows when added to water. At present offered out on pre-order, Nyoka’s light wands are reusable with supplemental bioluminescent fees.

These mild wands aren’t a scalable — or reasonably priced — possibility at this level. Nyoka offered them for $100 on its Kickstarter marketing campaign however the firm remains to be pretty new. It’s potential that, with every new section of improvement, the value will come down.

To Glow or Not To Glow?

What’s an eco-minded particular person to do in terms of glow sticks? As with so many different merchandise, your best option for the planet is just refusing to purchase them. However do these of us who care all the time need to deny ourselves the enjoyable stuff?

Perhaps we’d like just a little steadiness. Perhaps we don’t say no to all that glows. Perhaps we simply want much more individuals to hitch us. Take into account this quote from zero-waste chef Anne-Marie Bonneau, “We don’t want a handful of individuals doing zero waste completely. We want tens of millions of individuals doing it imperfectly.”

One piece of recommendation: In the event you should purchase a glow stick, you owe it to the planet to take the time to eliminate it responsibly.

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