I’m going to follow in the footsteps of a number of YouTube channels recently that create their ‘content’ by trawling Reddit for other people’s content. While I’m not sinking that low, I’ll be referencing a Reddit thread from a little while ago which intrigued me.
This is the thread in question. I’ll explain as best I can.
The New York Times talked to a company called Glitterex to write an article about the glitter industry. From the get-go, there seemed to be an air of secrecy around the whole operation – which, with the industry’s detrimental effect on the environment, is probably to be expected.
The most intriguing part of the interview is quoted in the Reddit thread. The reporter writes:
When I asked Ms. Dyer if she could tell me which industry served as Glitterex’s biggest market, her answer was instant: “No, I absolutely know that I can’t.”
The interviewee goes on to say that they would “never guess it” and that “they don’t want anyone to know that it’s glitter”.
Now, there are probably plenty of companies and industries that would prefer for their use of glitter to remain out of the public eye. And there are plenty of products which aren’t obviously made of glitter, but once you think about it, there is no other option (think metallic paint finishes for cars).
But this is specifically the biggest consumer of glitter. Another key part of her answer was when the reporter asked “If I looked at it, I wouldn’t know it was glitter?” – “No, not really.” So not only is this industry the biggest market for glitter, but it’s not even visibly glitter.
There are a lot of controversies surrounding glitter. As I mentioned above, glitter is plastic-based (although some companies now supply plant-based glitter) – and is the king of single-use plastics. The tiny, shiny granules find their way into drains, are carried to the sea, and eaten by marine life. The prime microplastic. Fun fact – all the glitter humanity has ever created still exists. In the public eye, (and in the public’s eyes), it’s becoming less of a whimsical, pretty substance, and more of a harmful nuisance. Some companies even exist so you can pay to ship glitter bombs to your enemies.
The Reddit thread in question is a wealth of ideas, and include a lot more than I could think of myself. The military is one of the most popular ideas. The suggested uses of mystery glitter in the defense sector range from stealth cloaking on aircraft, to identifiable substances in explosives. While these are definitely possible ideas, unless the industry in question is the military as a whole, I couldn’t see any of those uses being responsible for the biggest market share of glitter.
Another much-mentioned industry is the toothpaste industry. I feel like this fits the bill most closely – it would be scandalous if it were found that plastics were in something we were putting in our mouths on a daily basis, and it’s not obvious if there is glitter inside it. However, what keeps blocking that in my head is, once again, the fact that it’s the biggest consumer. Could the toothpaste industry be buying enough glitter to take that title? Who knows.
The most frustrating thing about this is that it’s still a mystery. There are some good and educated guesses out there, but they seem to be based on speculation. Any ideas?