Every packaging material has its role to play in ensuring our food and drink are maintained in consumable condition for as long as possible. However, we now appreciate that the packaging materials chosen need to not only take into consideration the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources but also any extra adverse effect on the environment. Using these criteria, why would any company choose to use glass bottles or jars when they could use plastic?
Although no one wants to drink champagne from plastic bottles, the glass bottle is 20-25 times heavier than plastic, its manufacture and transport is energy-intensive and glass uses more of the Earth’s natural resources than plastic.
We are indebted to HP Sauce for giving any of their customers an excellent opportunity to compare their glass packaging with their plastic, as they have chosen to use 4 different packs, 2 made from plastics, 2 made from glass. Thus, they have given us the perfect basis for the comparisons made in the table shown below.
|Packaging Type||Packaging Weight||Product Weight||Product per g of Packaging|
Please bear with me whilst we consider the implication of this table.
The glass pot (with a metal lid): – Has less weight of product than of packaging!!
The glass bottle: – Has virtually 1-1 product weight to packaging
The plastic bottle: – Has 15 x the weight of the product to packaging
The plastic sachet: – Has 23 x the weight of the product to packaging
To give these figures some context,
1 tonne of glass pots packs 580kg of sauce
1 tonne of plastic sachets packs 23 tonnes of sauce
This table identifies beyond dispute the excess packaging occurring when choosing glass instead of plastic. The comparisons are by necessity done by weight as these are clearly indicated on each pack.
Thus, we can conclude the use of glass compared to plastic is not only extraordinarily excessive use of resources for packaging but also that the cost to both, financially and environmentally are prohibitive. (I have deliberately ignored the metal lid and plastic label on the glass pot. However, the metal lid alone weighs 5.4g, equivalent to 10 plastic sachets).
We should also consider the effect of the extra domestic waste generated by the use of glass instead of plastic. If we assume HP decided to sell their sauce solely in packs of plastic sachets, we can calculate the difference in weight of the packaging waste generated.
The glass pot weighs 64g and contains 38g of sauce. If instead of glass 64g of plastic sachets were used, they would contain 1500g of sauce. In effect, the use of glass instead of plastic for the pots created 40 TIMES extra waste.
Similarly, the glass bottle weighs 235g, equivalent in weight to 470 sachets. The glass bottle contains only 235g of sauce, the sachets would contain 5460g of sauce, that equals 23 TIMES extra waste, Thus the extra waste generated in using glass instead of plastic is enormous.
Although we have focused on HP Sauce as they have produced like for like plastic/glass packaging. If you look inside any kitchen cupboard or fridge and you will find Jam, Pasta Sauce, Honey, Pickles, Mincemeat, Olive Oil, Spices, Jams, etc, etc (I just looked). All this packed in this overweight excessive glass packaging. This equates to millions of tonnes of extra domestic waste, plus millions of tonnes of extra CO2 emissions as well as more lorries on our motorways.
No doubt at this stage, the reader’s thoughts turn to recycling. Well, currently the UK recycles around 50% of container bottles and jars, somewhat less than the plastic packaging recycled. Meanwhile, there is much speculation on how long plastic takes to decompose but a figure of 1 million years is estimated for glass, far beyond the decomposition rate of plastic.
For many reasons, the anti-plastic Green Peace, Plastic Planet, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and their like, ignore the damage to the environment and the complete waste of the Earth’s resource using glass as it doesn’t fit their agenda. As a consequence, they focus on ‘litter’ and plastic waste, particularly plastic packaging as this is by necessity growing year by year. However, we do not reduce global warming or reduce packaging waste by reducing plastics, just the reverse. The more plastic is used for food and drink packaging, the less damage to our environment. Meanwhile, it is important we continue to improve our collection and recycling of this amazing material.
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