Which do you prefer glass or plastic to produce a product? That is a question many people ponder. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to each. The real answer isn’t as clear as you might think. But what’s the average carbon footprint of glass or plastic, aluminum, and drums?
This is where it becomes more complex but let’s start with a simple overview. When people buy a glass or plastic bottle from a store, they are contributing to the removal of at least seven tons of plastic every year in the USA. That’s a lot of trash. On top of that, some of those bottles are destined for the environment’s recycle bin before they’re even sold or recycled.
So how do you reduce your carbon footprint while still choosing the best option for your product or goods? It’s a tricky question, but the short answer is, “It depends.” You could choose glass or plastic or aluminum vs cartons. But which is the best choice for you?
One way is to reduce the volume of plastics that you’re consuming. Plastic is by far the most consumed material in our bottles and cans. It’s also one of the highest volumes of recycling. At present, about 77% of all plastic bottles sold in the USA are automatically placed in a recycling facility, so don’t expect to see any change in that number anytime soon.
Aluminum, on the other hand, is one of the most recycled materials but also one of the most wasteful. Its component, however, doesn’t go to waste, so it also makes for a good option when it comes to reducing the total amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Because aluminum is recyclable, you can actually use it again, unlike plastic and glass bottles. But because aluminum cans and bottles are not as break-resistant, it will be necessary to stock up on more of them. That means you have to make sure you get rid of all those plastic bottles before you can refill your aluminum ones.
Glass vs Plastic also has something to do with the way your glass is made. Glass bottles and plates are usually made out of refined glass and so will require less manufacturing of the polymer than do the more resource-inefficient plastic alternatives. For instance, polycarbonate is often used as the material for the inside of bottles, because it is more efficient than glass but is much more break-resistant.
However, glass bottles take up more space in your container for storage as they’re heavier and larger than they’re cheap. If you’re using glass bottles for transportation, you might not be able to carry enough to make a difference, at least not economically. In addition to that, glass bottles have to be shipped in refrigerated trucks along with all the accompanying equipment to keep them cold. It adds to the cost of your transportation cargo. Plastic on the other hand can be shipped in open trailers and containers or even inside a shipping container.
There’s a reason why plastic is more abundant than glass: it’s cheaper. But what you need to know is that plastic does contain some dangerous chemicals that leach into the air when they’re melted and poured into the molds. That means those little polymers must be disposed of in a hazardous way. Unfortunately, that means those little glass products you buy at the store are just as environmentally harmful as those man-made compounds mentioned earlier – but only because you can’t see them.
Glass has two distinct advantages over plastics as container alternatives. First off, it’s significantly more fire-resistant, meaning you can use it for purposes such as carrying food in containers to keep them from melting, but also for transportation. Glass is also more insulating, which means it takes up less space and thus produces a smaller carbon footprint – even though it also weighs less. Glass is actually better at conducting heat than plastic, meaning that the products it produces last longer during transportation, meaning you can use less energy to transport them and that you’ll have a smaller carbon footprint overall.
When it comes to disposal, both plastics and glass are pretty trash-friendly. Glass doesn’t have the same issues associated with disposal as many other materials do (like a). Glass itself is recyclable, meaning that you can lay down a glass panel and have it break down without worrying about hurting the environment. On the other hand, plastics aren’t quite so eco-friendly. There are chemicals used in the production of plastics that are toxic to the earth, so not all plastics are made with recyclable material.
The final environmental factor to consider is cost – and here, glass wins by a mile. Glass can be very expensive, meaning that it’s usually used in high-end items where it can command a significant price premium. Plastic, on the other hand, is incredibly cheap, making it an affordable replacement for glass bottles in many situations. Therefore, glass bottles may be more appropriate for situations where you want an easy-to-carry, elegant container that won’t break the bank. Plastic on the other hand, unless it’s specially created, will usually be fairly mass-produced and thus very cheap – and that means you’ll have to pay a premium if you want to get an elegant glass bottle. Glass, as you’ve seen, has many advantages over plastics, though they all come at a price.