KIMO Sweden and the City of Malmö on the case… We spoke to Karin Meyer, coordinator of KIMO Sweden to find out what they discovered:
The use of confetti at celebrations is common in Sweden. But what is common over-the-counter confetti actually made of? To find out, the City of Malmö bought three different confetti ‘bombs’ from a local shop. Perhaps, the label would indicate what they contained? Not one of the three confetti ‘bombs’ had a table of contents. Perhaps the merchant would know what they contained? Still no luck. Only one option was left… the confetti had to be tested with an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
This scientific instrument can be used to determine the chemical composition of a given material. The test sample is illuminated by an intense x-ray beam. Some of the beam’s energy is scattered but some is also absorbed by the materials in the sample. This influx of energy causes the atoms in the sample to become ‘excited’. If the energy of the radiation is sufficient to dislodge a tightly-held inner electron, the atom becomes unstable and an outer electron replaces the missing inner electron. When an electron jumps into a tighter orbit, energy is released in the form of fluorescent radiation. The colour of the radiation is highly dependent on the chemical composition of the materials from which the energy was released. By analysing the colour spectrum of the emitted radiation, scientists can tell what elements a given sample is made of.
Once our confetti samples had been through the XRF spectrometer, we could analyse the results. The confetti did not contain any metals. So what was it made of? All three samples were made of PVC and other plastics. Perhaps not that surprising but at least we know for certain.
The dangers posed to the environment from microplastic pollution is well known, So, what can we do together to prevent these kinds of plastic particles from reaching nature?
For a number of years, KIMO Sweden has campaigned hard to prevent the use of confetti. We have raised awareness of the issue by sharing information with schools and in our municipalities. These campaigns have received good coverage and there is certainly growing awareness of the problems caused by confetti. We don’t want to be killjoys though! We try to remind folks that there are plenty of other ways to celebrate such as using soap bubbles, flower petals, rice or seeds.
To take our campaign to a wider audience we have, together with the City of Malmö created a short video. Take a look (and remember you don’t need plastic to party!)