Is Glass or Plastic better for the environment?

Plastic – love it, hate it, recycle it or dump it, it is here to stay. The keyboard that I type this on and the chair I sit from are evident of this fact. However, when it comes to bottles and packaging, what are our options, really?

The two most commonly thought of options are plastic bottles and glass containers. Glass is usually thought of as the more environmentally friendly option, and a lot of people associate glass with quality, permanence and an overall better option for the public to use.

However, is this really the case? Is glass always better for us? 

Let’s examine the differences between glass and plastic, and their impact on the environment, ourselves and the economy in this blog post.


Glass VS Plastic – The Environment

The general consensus is that plastic is harming the environment to the point of no return. We have addressed this topic in detail in two other blog posts, but is glass any better?


Glass is more expensive to recycle

Because of the weight, nature and fragility of glass, it ends up being a lot more difficult to recycle glass than it is plastic. Thus, companies that attempt to do this often end up incurring a higher cost than companies that recycle plastic.


Glass takes twice as much energy to produce

If you’re concerned about fossil fuels, air pollution and waste byproducts, glass is not your friend. Plastic byproducts can be grinded into perfectly reusable bottles, pipes and furniture while the reusability of glass is much lower. This would not be a problem, except for the fact that glass takes twice as much energy to produce than plastic!


More pollution is created in the manufacture, shipping and recycling of glass

Glass is much heavier than plastic and requires more transport. Additionally, this means it leaves a much larger carbon footprint. In short, it’s better for companies and the environment to stick to plastic bottles where they can.


Glass creates more than 6 times the global warming gases than plastic

In its creation and production processes, glass ends up creating 6 times more global warming gasses than plastic. The fossil fuels required to generate the very high temperatures needed to manufacture glass are just one of the considerations. Transport, breakages and other issues contribute to this figure. 


Glass VS Plastic – The Economy


Glass costs more than plastic

Glass costs more on almost every front when it comes to production. It costs more to produce, ship and recycle than plastic.


Glass is more fragile than plastic

Compared to plastic, glass is extremely fragile, with a lot of glass production being broken, chipped or otherwise unusable. Plastic bottles are more reliable and sturdy than glass in production and in retail.


Glass becomes weaker after recycling

Plastic is easily recycled and repurposed. While glass may be recycled into other forms, it becomes weaker with each repurpose until it becomes unusable, leaving a lot of wasted potential for companies.


Glass VS Plastic – You

Plastic can be shaped more than glass

When it comes to colors, designs and shapes, plastic is the clear winner. Glass is a lot more frigid with shape and style than plastic, and plastic opens up a lot more opportunities for branding, conformity and easy identification than glass.


Plastic is not as dangerous as glass

A broken plastic bottle will never cause as much damage as a broken glass bottle, and is less likely to break in your house or in a store, causing a dangerous mess.


Plastic is more visible

Because plastic floats, typically stays in form, and is safe to pickup, it is easier for communities to notice and clean up plastic than it is glass pollution. Perhaps the visibility of plastic is the reason why it gets such a bad reputation for the environment.


Responsible Plastic

Clearly there are some products that definitely need glass, but plastic is much better for the environment in many cases. As a responsible plastics bottle manufacturer in South Africa, we encourage consumers to recycle their bottles or dispose of them in the proper way. Some of the actions consumers may take to be more responsible with their plastic disposal is to use the correct recycling bin, stay away from multi-material packaging and minimise single use plastics such as straws, cutlery and disposable packaging.

If you’d like to find out more about plastic, the environment or just how it’s made, contact B&I Polycontainers today or check out our other two blogs on the topic.

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