Ever wonder what happens to liquid-filled glow sticks after a concert or event? They’re broken open to release the light and then strewn across the grounds. Even after cleanup, one has to wonder: is this good for the environment? 

At raves, concerts and festivals, attendees use these glow sticks and sometimes cut them open to pour the toxic glow mixture over their clothes and hair. Some even drink the liquid inside, but that’s another story. (Please don’t do this!) This may seem all fun and games during the concert, but no one asks the million-dollar question: what happens afterwards?

When people leave concerts or celebrations, all those cups, glasses and papers scattered across the field need to be picked up. However, what is also present? Empty, broken plastic sticks strewn everywhere. Even if glow sticks were collected separately, recycling them is not an option.

What happens when tens of thousands of glow sticks are discarded after a single use? Imagine how many glow sticks have been discarded at these events over the last 10 years. Can the empty tubes be recycled? Great question. Unfortunately no. Once you use a liquid glow stick, it cannot be reused or refilled, and because of the chemicals used inside, the plastic cannot be recycled.

These plastic sticks are discarded in landfills. Every year more than 100 million liquid sticks are piling up, taking years to even partially decompose. Though this information is troubling, what is of greater consequence are the chemical remnants in these discarded sticks. Liquid glow sticks consist mainly of the following four chemicals: dibutyl phthalate, hydrogen peroxide, phthalic ester and phenyl oxalate ester. Most people are unaware of the potential air and water pollution taking place due to these seemingly innocent concert enhancers.

Dibutyl phthalate is a chemical that makes plastics soft and flexible.  It is used in glue, nail polish, leather, inks and dyes. Hydrogen peroxide is used as a cleaning agent and it is stronger than the household hydrogen peroxide. It is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and can harm the respiratory tract. Phthalic ester is added to plastic to increase flexibility, durability and transparency. Phenyl oxalate ester is the chemical used for the actual glow in a liquid glow stick.

These chemicals can contribute to larger health issues. Consider the environmental damage that happens when liquid glow sticks are opened at concerts and other outdoor events. The empty containers strewn on the ground cannot be reused. If burned, these containers contribute to toxic air because even empty, the vials are pollutants. Meanwhile, the liquids released from these tubes can seep into the soil, making their way into water supplies and transferred to food crops. These chemicals are harmful, not only humans, but to other animals and can severely affect any ecosystem.

If you are thinking about using liquid glow sticks, please consider other options. There are products offered that will emit awesome glow effects lasting 15 years or longer. Products such as LED’s and safe photoluminescent materials offer a bright glow and last much longer than just one time. Most of these products are eco-friendly and reusable, and will continually recharge for years, glowing as bright as the first day you bought it.

Alternative glow options come in a fun variety of colors and styles, providing a better twist for concertgoers and for creating that memorable costume. Lunabrite products come in many creative and usable formats including  glow in the dark rope trim, illuminating ribbon, glow sheets and resin. The round rope looks tremendously similar to glow stick necklaces and bracelets.Our design team is hard at work on even more alternatives that are chemical free and and can be used for many years with simple and natural recharging. Want to make a glowing a statement? Don’t break open those toxic liquid sticks. Use and re-use glow ribbon or glow sheets! It’s safer for you, and safer for our earth.