Out of all the food packaging solutions available, most people think that glass is pretty green and eco-friendly. However, that’s not entirely true. Let’s look at the production, consumption and recycling of the glass products we use daily.
The raw material we use to create glass is primarily silica which is found in sand. Silica is a finite resource, and just like most raw materials today, it is becoming increasingly scarce. Once all the material is gathered, it still needs to be heated up to a melting point, which requires an enormous amount of energy. Indeed, to melt, sand needs to reach 1700ºC (3090ºF)… That’s extremely hot. In most cases, this energy comes from burning fossil fuels, leading to greenhouse gas emissions. Eventually, the ovens used to melt glass tend to run 24/7 since starting them up takes up a lot of time and resources.
Almost all stores and supermarkets have some glass packaging, whether in bottles or jars. When consuming any product, it is essential to understand where this product comes from and how it ended up in that specific store. Glass is heavy. It is much heavier than aluminum or plastic. A 500ml bottle that is made from plastic or aluminum weighs around 10g, but if it is made of glass, the bottle weighs 400g. When transporting hundreds of glass bottles, the difference in weight is quite significant. If the product is heavier, it requires more fuel and energy to be sent to its final destination.
Glass can be reused, recycled, or tossed in the environment or landfill. If not recycled, glass takes about 1 million years to decompose. It means that all the glass ever created, dating back centuries, still exists today. However, the benefit of glass over plastic, for example, is that it is infinitely recyclable. It is also important to note that non-virgin Glass (Glass that is partially created from recycled glass) takes up around 30% less energy than virgin glass! That is a significant decrease in terms of energy use.
Glass is an excellent alternative to plastic and other materials in terms of recyclability, but it is a fragile and heavy way to package products such as food. There is a reason why the food industry switched to plastic so quickly! Using light and resistant plastic bottles and jars is more cost-efficient than glass ones. Glass is not the solution to plastic pollution. Still, knowing its benefits and drawbacks is essential the next time you buy packaged food at the store! Once more, the best eco-friendly solution is to reuse instead of buying again and again!