Is slime bad for the environment? (Plus bonus eco-friendly slime recipe!)

  • Date: May 14, 2022

Kids love slime! That’s just one of life’s facts. As well as being fun, it has a whole host of benefits that aid their development – it can enhance their creativity, improve their fine motor skills and improve concentration.  Parents love it too (sometimes)! Its cheap and, with the right storage, can provide weeks of entertainment for the kids. But one key question is getting asked more and more as people become more mindful of their impact on the planet – is slime bad for the environment?

How does it work? What is slime made from?

Slime is known as a non-Newtonian fluid. It is neither solid nor liquid. Without getting too technical, it gets it properties from polymers – these are very long chains of molecules. In slime, the glue is the polymer. When glue is just in its normal glue-form, these polymers slide effortlessly past each other. However, when making slime an activating agent is added. This results in the molecules of the glue polymers interacting –a process called cross-linking. It is this cross-linking that gives slime it’s unique properties.

So, is slime bad for the environment?

A large component of standard slime is glue. This makes slime, essentially, a lump of plastic. This means that it will spend a long time in landfill since it does not break down easily.  Some of the parts that are incorporated into the slime to make it even more appealing can make it worse for the environment. Glitter, for instance, is deemed deeply damaging for the environment – they are made from microplastics which can end up polluting waterways and harming wildlife. Microplastics don’t biodegrade readily, meaning that ‘glitter litter’ exists centuries after the play session. Styrofoam beads are another favorite to use in slime play – like glitter, these take many, many years to decay.

In addition to being bad for the environment, standard slime can also be toxic to humans and animals due to the use of borax as an activating agent – another great reason to go for an eco-friendly, borax-free slime.

How can I make eco-friendly slime?

Luckily, eco-friendly slime is easy to make and does not need any particularly difficult-to-find ingredients. One of the simplest methods only requires three ingredients – cornflower, water and food coloring. Measure half a cup of cornflower and in a separate bowl mix water with the food coloring. Then add 10 to 12 drops of the colored water and give it a good mix with a spoon. When it gets crumbly add more drops of water (slowly, one by one) and continue mixing until your slime is the consistency you want it! You can add more water if you have made it too thick or add more cornflour if you have got a bit enthusiastic with the water – it really is a great, simple way to make eco-friendly slime.

Another, more complicated (but still pretty easy) DIY eco-friendly slime requires water, flaxseed and corn starch. In a saucepan, mix 1 and a half cups of water with one tablespoon of corn starch. When dissolved, stir in ¼ cup of flaxseed. The mixture should then be brought to a simmer over a medium heat for about a minute – then left to cool. Repeat this simmer-then-cool process a couple of times. The flaxseeds should become thick. Stick the mixture in a container and pop it in the fridge for a few hours. Before play, add in some coloring. Like the other slime-making method, if your slime isn’t the consistency you want you can change it – here, simply add a little corn starch and knead it in. Continue until it is the right thickness for your little one.  

As mentioned before, the extra additions to the slime – such as glitter and Styrofoam beads – make the activity even more eco-unfriendly. Instead, you can incorporate re-usable items such as marbles or items from your pantry like rice or dried beans. You should also avoid biodegradable glitter. Usually made from plant cellulose, this can also have a negative impact on the environment too – it has been shown to cause havoc to the natural food chain.

The bottom line

Standard slime – whether shop-bought or DIY – is a big environmental no-no. The ingredients used can take hundreds of years to biodegrade – if ever. Eco-friendly homemade slime, although not the exact same consistency as the standard variety, is just as much fun! It is made with materials that can break down quicker and impact the environment less – it is also a great way to open the conversation about sustainability issues with your child, and hopefully develop good eco habits for the future.