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Initially designed for military and civil security use for emergency lighting, glow sticks have purposes as diverse as tenting lights and night-fishing lures. Yet, 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 change into nearly synonymous with celebrations like Independence Day, Halloween, and music festivals. But after the celebration, what do you do with these plastic wands? Are glow sticks recyclable or reusable? And how are you going to get rid of them after they cease glowing?
As celebratory as they’re, glow sticks pose a number of issues for the setting:
- They’re disposable, designed for single use.
- They’re manufactured from plastic.
- They’re non-recyclable.
- They include questionable chemical compounds.
Glow Sticks Create Waste
There’s no query that we use a variety of glow sticks. Take a go searching after a parade or a live performance. You’ll see hundreds strewn concerning the floor. The glowing wands are enormously widespread. Amazon lists greater than 20,000 totally different merchandise underneath the class “glow sticks.” Party packs include a whole bunch of versatile glow sticks that revelers can trend into glowing necklaces, bracelets, headbands, and extra.
These disposable plastic tubes are single-use plastics — they will solely be used as soon as. While they vary on how lengthy their chemical glow lasts, when it stops, they change into waste. But issues about plastic waste don’t appear to be affecting their recognition; a report from Fact.MR tasks that glow sticks will solely improve in recognition in the course of the subsequent decade.
Are Glow Sticks Toxic?
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 underneath a threat evaluation to judge well being issues. Specifically, the EPA is wanting 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 keeping with the Federal Trade Commission. In different phrases, a product could be labeled as unhazardous, however no one is being held to account for making the declare.
Despite DBP being underneath an EPA evaluation, the North Carolina Poison Control Center states that glow sticks are low in toxicity. They say for those who ingest it, to not be “alarmed if lips and tongue glow for a couple of minutes.” You could be the choose on that one.
How Should I Dispose of My Glow Sticks?
There aren’t a variety 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 inserting spent glow sticks in plastic bags or bottles earlier than tossing them within the trash. Have you 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 onerous to think about that disposable glow sticks survive the bulldozer intact.
To forestall the chemical compounds in conventional glow sticks from coming into the setting, we suggest treating them as household hazardous waste (HHW). Find an HHW drop-off location near you the place you may get rid of these things safely.
Are There “Green” Options?
Again, a phrase of warning about over-generalized phrases that don’t have any regulatory muscle behind them. “Green” 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 more in-depth have a look at three merchandise revealed little to point why they had been marketed as “environmentally pleasant.”
That being stated, there are barely higher alternate options to single-use chemiluminescent glow sticks.
1. LED Alternative
There are glow sticks that use LEDs (light-emitting diodes) as a substitute of chemical compounds for his or her gentle supply. There are fairly a couple of, judging by Amazon’s itemizing of 10,000 products underneath 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 can substitute the batteries to reuse the product again and again. Batteries are e-waste and must be disposed of properly.
2. Photoluminescent Alternative
UVPaqlite’s photoluminescent glow sticks use massive strontium aluminate crystals. Similar to glow-in-the-dark stars that children stick on their partitions, their glow sticks soak up ambient gentle and glow for as much as 10 hours. Though they solely are available in one colour, UVPaqlite’s model could be recharged indefinitely.
3. Bioluminescent Alternative
Bioluminescence is the flexibility of residing 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. Currently offered out on pre-order, Nyoka’s light wands are reusable with supplemental bioluminescent expenses.
These gentle wands aren’t a scalable — or inexpensive — possibility at this level. Nyoka offered them for $100 on its Kickstarter marketing campaign however the firm remains to be pretty new. It’s attainable that, with every new section of improvement, the worth 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. But do these of us who care at all times must deny ourselves the enjoyable stuff?
Maybe we want slightly steadiness. Maybe we don’t say no to all that glows. Maybe we simply want much more folks to hitch us. Consider 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: If you need to purchase a glow stick, you owe it to the planet to take the time to get rid of it responsibly.