Who doesn’t fancy the idea of going to a party with a few glow sticks around the wrist? While you may think it is just a tube that lights up in dark, there is more to that.
Why This Party Favor Glow Stick Is Not Good For The Environment
Glow Sticks Are Not Biodegradable
Glow sticks are not biodegradable because they are made of plastic, which is a synthetic material that does not break down naturally in the environment.
The plastic used in glow sticks is called polyethylene. This is well-suited for glow sticks financially because polyethylene is cheap, lightweight, and flexible, and companies can buy a big batch of them at very little cost.
But looking at it the sustainable way, the plastic used in glow sticks, like any other synthetic material, possess a huge threat to the environment as it takes hundreds of years to break down.
Sure, some plastics can be recycled but they are not biodegradable. Let alone the energy and the cost associated with plastic recycling.
Chemicals Used In Glow Sticks Are Harmful To Plants And Animals
Glow sticks contain two chemicals mixed: fluorescent dye and phosphor. The fluorescent dye absorbs energy from the phosphor and emits it as visible light.
The type of fluorescent dye and phosphor can vary depending on what color of sticks needs to be produced. Some common fluorescent dyes are rhodamine and coumarin, and common phosphors for this need are hydrogen peroxide and dibutyl phthalate.
If a glow stick is punctured, the chemicals can leak out and can come in contact with soil, plants, or animals. While ingestion of a small amount of that chemical is not going to cause significant problems, as it can be classified as non-toxic, a larger quantity (ex. a concert ground full of broken glow sticks) should not be taken easily.
Glow Sticks Are Not Designed To Be Reused
Glow stick is the product of a one-time chemical reaction. Meaning that the substances used in glow sticks come in contact when you shake them, emits energy as light and that’s all.
It is not reversible so once you start the process and the chemical reaction is finished, they will not be able to produce any more light, regardless of how hard you shake them. The only thing you can do with them after that is: throw them away.
The idea of refillable glow sticks is also always discarded by companies because it will risk the safety and the sanitization of the environment even more.
Glow Sticks Are Not Disposed Of Correctly
Glow sticks are designed to be used once and then discarded, which contributes to the problem of plastic waste. While it is true that some types of plastics can be recycled including polyethylene which is used in glow sticks, most of it ends up in landfills.
There are several potential reasons for that. Some people are just not aware of the environmental impact of disposing of glow sticks in a regular trash can or the inconvenience of finding a recyclable bin at parties or concerts encourages them to litter.
The last discouragement kicks in when you find a recycling can or center at last but it says in red no glow sticks.
What To Replace Glow Sticks With Without Missing Out On the Fun Bits
The most fitting eco-friendly alternative for a glow stick is an LED stick because the latter does not operate on chemicals and is reusable.
With a quick search on Amazon, you could probably find tons of glow-stick-lookalike LEDs.
We particularly liked the light sticks from Blu7ive because they have an on/off button so when your party is over, you can turn it off and keep it somewhere in your closet for the next time.
This one doesn’t charge functionally, but you can swap the CR2032 button cell batteries out easily for a new one when needed. If you are concerned about battery waste, you can also invest a few bucks on rechargeable button cell batteries and a charger.
Why LED Sticks Are More Eco-Friendly Than Glow Sticks
LED Sticks Use Less Energy
LED lights use a different technology to produce lights which is more efficient than the chemical reactions in glow sticks.
This means less electricity is required to produce the same amount of light and eventually less carbon is emitted from power plants. They also emit less heat which means less energy is wasted in the form of heat.
LED Sticks Are Reusable And Long-Lasting
LED light sticks have a longer lifespan. They use styrofoam as the cover material which is soft and flexible like polyethylene.
You might be wondering why styrofoam, since styrofoam is not any better than the polyethylene used in glow sticks. You are right and both of them are not biodegradable. We cannot compare them by the build material as it is a sheer way of keeping the production cost low for the companies.
When it comes down to reusability a styrofoam-based LED stick crushes a polyethylene-based glow stick. LED sticks, when done using them for one night, can be stored for later. But glow sticks, they can only be thrown away after one usage.
LEDs Do Not Require Chemicals To Run
LED stands for light-emitting diodes which does exactly what the name says. You pass some electricity through those diodes and they convert the electric energy into lights. The LED tech has progressed so much over the years that now very little electricity is needed to produce a lot of light.
While on the other hand, glow sticks reserve back to the old mechanism of light where you mix some chemicals and the resultant is visible light. It is also not the optimal way of producing light as there is a lot of inefficiency, residue, and waste in this process.
The Tradeoffs Of Swapping Glow Sticks Out For LEDs
LED Lights Are More Expensive
The price of glow sticks is not very comparable with LED sticks. Where you can get 100 pieces of glow sticks for 10 dollars or less, you will not get more than 10-15 pieces of LED sticks for the same amount of money.
So factoring in the money, glow sticks are better valued, but thinking about the environment, the reusability, and everything else we talked about in this post, you will be doing a favor.
Some LEDs Might Be Too Bright To Be Used As An Accent Light
Glow sticks produce a subtle light and it only lights up in the darkness. Whereas LED lights use electricity, can be of varied brightness, and don’t matter with the environment.
So if you are particularly looking for accenting up a party, you should pay close attention to which lights you are picking. Keep that mind that the light with the lowest lumen output could still be brighter than the brightest glow stick.
Your best bet would be to choose a LED light stick with a shade around it to cut the brightness slightly further.
You Might Not Be Able To Wear Them All
Glow sticks are made of a liquid mixture of chemicals. This liquid can be filled in various shaped items. As long as the item, where the liquid is filled, is transparent, the light will be emitted.
This is why there are glowing glasses, headbands, wristbands, and all sorts of things available in the market as party favors.
That is not the case with LEDs. The LED lights are a bit limited in terms of flexibility. A lot more work might need to be put to decorate wearable accessories with LEDs. Let alone the extra cost you have to pay for that.