Botanical Gardens

UNC Charlotte students using glitter effects in pictures has become an environmental and financial burden on the campus botanical gardens. 

“It's always going to be there, we pick up as much as we can, but unless we physically remove it, it does not disappear,” said Jeff Gillman, director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.

The glitter is often used by students who want to capture a visual effect in a photo.

Gillman said that people will celebrate anything with glitter. He said that the most popular glitter photo involves someone putting glitter in their hands and blowing it to create a brief sparkling cloud.. However, most students use glitter for their graduation or birthday pictures. 

“Do it at home! Anyone who wants to get a glitter picture can do this anywhere else,” Gillman said.  “It makes a cool picture, but it's a close up that you could literally do in the street… there is no reason for it to be in the gardens. We [the garden staff] have to clean it up.”

The glitter blankets the soil and walkways of the garden, Gillman said. This causes the garden staff to spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars and many hours to manually clean up the glitter. 

Not only does glitter cause an inconvenience to the garden staff, but it leads to many issues in the makeup of the gardens, said Gillman. He explained that the toxins in the glitter, such as aluminum, can slow the growth in some plants. 

“[Metallic glitter] dissolves into the soil, and the aluminum is a plant toxin,” he said. “Plants utilize a tiny amount of aluminum and when it gets above that amount it can become toxic.” He added that there are parts of the garden where plants are not growing as easily due to the glitter. 

The glitter must be cleaned up by hand. “We can't blow it, because it makes a different part of the garden toxic,” Gillman said.  “So we have to pick it up.” 

Gillman said the UNC Charlotte university administration is not doing anything to help with the issue. “No, it's all us; we clean it.” 

“The glitter will impact the gardens for years,” said Gillman. He hopes that glitter photographers will remember the gardens are for everyone to enjoy.

“What you do today is going to have an impact for years. This garden is here for everyone to enjoy. If you want to throw something in the garden, throw dry leaves," he said. "We don't mind cleaning up dry leaves.”

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