Plastic vs. Glass
In recent years, there’s been somewhat of a glass renaissance. People have been calling milkmen to redeliver the white stuff in good-old-fashioned glass bottles; condiments, like ‘natural’ peanut butter, line the supermarket shelves in glass jars; and your favourite alcoholic beverages are encased in smart glass bottles. But does a glass jar really offer better environmental and user-friendly benefits over a plastic one – or in our case, a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) supplement pot? We’re not convinced.
On the surface, glass certainly ‘feels’ like the most eco-friendly packaging. Proponents of this material are quick to champion its ‘green’ features: it’s chemically inert, straightforward to make (it’s a simple combination of limestone, soda ash, and sand), and keeps contents fresh without the need for plastic barriers or films. Plus, it’s incredibly recyclable – cullet, scrap glass, is a vital ingredient in the production of new glass. Despite all this, we still believe our HDPE pots trump glass in several areas.
Firstly, glass requires a lot more energy than HDPE to produce. Glass is made from the raw materials limestone, soda ash, and sand, which are melted at 1,600 degrees and then cooled to form glass. It takes a blistering furnace along with a ton of carbon-emitting fossils fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to create.
There’s also the issue of weight. While efforts have been made to use thinner glass, its weight bumps up transportation costs. Conversely, HDPE is much lighter than glass. And lighter products utilise fewer raw materials, meaning they require less energy to produce and transport – and have a smaller carbon footprint, as a result. The raw materials and production costs for HDPE packaging are significantly cheaper than glass, too, offering a further advantage to our customers.
Of course, we have to mention safety, too. Glass is a notoriously fragile material and susceptible to breakage from impact or pressure. When damaged, glass will shatter, producing splinters and sharp fragments, which can present a major safety hazard. Any manufacturer using glass packaging needs to ensure products are sufficiently protected for delivery, with many employing airbags, foam-packaging, crumpled Kraft paper, or bubble-wrap. While, admittedly, some of this padding is recyclable, we maintain this is an unnecessary use of materials and would only contribute to more wastage. Plus, there’s always a risk glass will still be damaged in transit.
Finally, a word on recycling: though you can recycle both glass and HDPE, there’s a marked difference in how these recycled goods can be utilised in the next stage of their lifecycle. Glass, for instance, can only be recycled into new glass products, thereby restricting its uses. Whereas, recycled HDPE can be transformed into a number of products thanks to its flexible integrity. Toys, rope, recycling bins and rubbish bins top are just some of the products this recycled material can help produce.
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Digital, A. (2019). I'm green™ - Braskem. Plasticoverde.braskem.com.br. Available online: http://plasticoverde.braskem.com.br/site.aspx/Im-green [Accessed 30 Jan. 2019].
IHS Markit. (2019). Plastics packaging for the food and beverage industries: A case study in changing attitudes. Available online: https://ihsmarkit.com/research-analysis/fandb-plastics-packaging.html [Accessed 25 Jan. 2019].