Making eco-friendly crafts has never been easier, but there are still many ways we can be more eco-friendly. While my general rule is to use up what you already have, you should also know which craft materials are biodegradable and which to avoid.
Some of the most common craft materials include glue, tape, foam, glitter, paper, and tissue paper. Some of these aren’t biodegradable so finding biodegradable alternatives should be top of your list before buying new.
Craft glue and craft tape are tricky craft materials to find biodegradable alternatives for but it’s worth it – the adhesive used in glue and tape isn’t biodegradable and it isn’t always specified which adhesive is being used.
Craft foam is by far the worst of all craft materials for biodegradability, as there are no biodegradable alternatives. Similarly, you should be careful about any kind of glitter, unless you’re making glitter yourself.
Is craft glue biodegradable?
Craft glue is any kind of water-based craft material usually used in making crafts. Craft glues are quick-drying and aren’t industrial adhesives, so it encompasses many types of glue.
Common types of craft glue include:
- PVA glue (including tacky glue)
- Mod Podge
- Glue pens
- Glitter glue
- Silicone adhesive
- Hot glue gun
- Glue dots
- Double-sided foam tape
- Double-sided glue rollers
- Spray adhesive
Almost everybody is familiar with PVA glue, the most common glue used in crafts and schools. PVA stands for polyvinyl acetate, which is used in all sorts from crafts to creating paints and gluing wood together.
Unsurprisingly, PVA glue is made from plastics. PVA glue is a synthetic resin. Under the right conditions, PVA glue can biodegrade because it’s water-based and doesn’t appear to have detrimental effects on the environment – as far as we can tell so far!
However, PVA glue could be ingested by wildlife and aquatic life, which could fill their stomachs and reduce the number of nutrients they can consume.
Even though PVA glue is the most common glue used, there’s not enough information to tell what its long-term effects on the environment are. We know that when ingested it’s not toxic to us, but PVA glue was only invented in 1912.
Other craft glues were invented more recently, so not enough studies have been done to determine their biodegradability or environmental impact.
Silicone adhesive is known not to be biodegradable, because silicone is so durable and doesn’t easily biodegrade – however, it doesn’t break down into microplastics either.
Glue dots use rubber-based adhesives, though it’s unknown whether the rubber used is synthetic or natural rubber.
Hot glue guns use a variety of different glue sticks made from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyesters, polyethylene, and ethylene-methyl acrylate (EMA). Using a hot glue gun isn’t completely eco-friendly, but it does cut down on waste by using up a whole glue stick before moving on to the next. However, the glue sticks used by hot glue guns aren’t biodegradable.
Some glue sticks are also best to avoid because of the impact they have on the environment. A 2005 material safety data sheet for hotmelt adhesive made using EVA specifies that EVA should “not be allowed to enter drains or water courses or be deposited when it can effect [sic] ground surface waters”.
The lack of information found on any material safety data sheets for different craft glues shows that the adhesives either haven’t been tested or tests have not been created and made a requirement of selling glue products.
Is Mod Podge biodegradable?
Mod Podge is made from acrylic sealant and ethylene-vinyl acetate. Despite being water-based, Mod Podge is not very eco-friendly or biodegradable.
Because of the synthetic chemicals used in the creation of Mod Podge, the glue will not break down into natural compounds.
Which craft glue is biodegradable?
With traditional craft glues, it’s very difficult to determine whether they’re biodegradable or not. The cheaper the craft glue, the more likely it was made with cheap synthetic ingredients which are almost certainly non-biodegradable.
Water-based adhesives are more eco-friendly than epoxy resins found in some craft glues. However, the best craft glues are made with an animal- or plant-based adhesives, such as:
- Animal glue (not vegan-friendly)
- Starch glue
- Rice glue
There are other plant-based adhesives that can also be produced with synthetic versions, such as latex glue and resins.
Some of the best biodegradable craft glues I’ve found are:
You can even make your own homemade glue sticks. Using cornstarch and water, you can fill up old glue stick containers and create plant-based glue sticks just using a saucepan and stove. Because the glue is made from cornstarch and water only, you know that it’s eco-friendly!
Natural dyes can even be used to create colorful glue, but this could affect the consistency of the glue.
If you aren’t able to purchase or make your own eco-friendly craft glue, you can use craft tape instead.
Is craft tape biodegradable?
There are a few varieties of craft tape, including double-sided tape, duct tape, double-sided foam tape, masking tape, washi tape, and transparent tape.
Many craft tapes use plastic and adhesive, and it’s rarely specified what adhesive is used. The majority aren’t biodegradable, but it’s very difficult to tell which.
Washi tape is the most eco-friendly biodegradable craft tape because it’s made from paper (often bamboo, hemp, or rice) with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.
The main problem with washi tape is making sure it doesn’t contain any non-biodegradable elements, like glitter, acrylic paint, or printed foil.
When looking for other craft tapes or any ecological craft materials, search around for zero plastic alternatives that use cellulose paper or starch-based glue. Having just one makes it better than the more common non-biodegradable versions.
Is craft foam biodegradable?
Craft foam isn’t biodegradable – most foams are plastic-based, with the majority made from EVA. Almost all craft foam is made from EVA, and many products don’t specify what it’s made from other than “foam”.
There are unfortunately no foam alternatives that could be used as craft materials. But the foam industry is working on environmentally friendly packaging foam.
If you’re looking to substitute something else for foam, you could try using felt, cardboard, or layering fabric.
Making your own kinetic sand with sand, cornstarch, and vegetable oil for temporary foam-like crafts is also an option! Commercial kinetic sand is not biodegradable, much like playdoh. You can also make your own playdough though!
Is craft glitter biodegradable?
Most craft glitter is made from plastic. One of the biggest sources of microplastics, glitter is known to be a big no-no for being eco-friendly, yet it’s still popular. It’s hard not to see why given the colorful sparkle it gives to craft materials.
Thankfully, there are lots of eco-friendly glitter alternatives now. Any biodegradable glitter can substitute craft glitter, but the best eco-friendly glitter shouldn’t have been coated. This means that your glitter won’t sparkle quite the same but you will be looking after the environment more.
Most eco-friendly glitter is either made from cellulose and coated with aluminum and plastic or made with mica.
Mica is made from natural minerals and ground down into a powder. However, mica is associated with child labor and human rights abuses. There is synthetic mica which is said to be biodegradable, yet a study found that it is insoluble in water. This could pose risks to aquatic life.
It might be best to do away with the glitter entirely and look at more eco-friendly craft materials. Some alternatives might just spark your creativity even further!
Some of the best biodegradable alternatives to craft glitter include:
- DIY colored rice (use old or leftover rice for extra eco points)
- DIY colored sesame seeds (if substituting sesame seeds, make sure you don’t use the seeds of invasive plants)
- DIY colored oats or chickpeas (liquid watercolors are better than synthetic food coloring)
- DIY sugar glitter
- DIY Epsom salt glitter
Is craft paper biodegradable craft material?
Craft paper, like most types of paper, is also one of the most biodegradable craft materials, as long as it doesn’t have a shiny finish to it or has any foil or glitter on it. Because it’s also recyclable, you don’t have to worry about disposing of it too, since you can just pop it in with your recycling.
If you compost at home, you can also add it to your compost heap or bin.
Is craft tissue paper biodegradable?
Like craft paper, craft tissue paper is biodegradable and compostable. Most recycling facilities won’t recycle tissue paper though, so don’t add it to your recycling.
Because of this, it’s best to buy recycled tissue paper for craft projects.