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Is glass a good alternative to plastic?

As the world develops, many manufacturers are looking for more sustainable approaches to packaging and manufacturing. With global warming becoming as prevalent as ever, many countries and institutions are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and plastic production.

There are many misconceptions behind glass and plastic, and just how recyclable each is compared to the other. In the current climate, it is essential to understand what we can do for the environment and how our actions can impact the planet for the better.

Is glass recyclable?

Whilst many manufacturers are aiming to use more alternatives to plastic packaging, understanding what changes we can make from home is also imperative for large-scale impact.

Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly. By continuing to recycle our glass, we are able to reduce our non-renewable fossil fuel usage and reduce CO2 emissions from carbonate raw materials

With many local councils offering specific glass bottle collections from home, or bottle banks in the local area, it’s nearly impossible to avoid recycling glass in this day and age. 

How many times can glass be recycled?

It’s true! Glass can be recycled infinitely. Like metal, glass can be recycled an unlimited number of times. Due to the difficult process and the amount of raw materials required to make glass, it is much more beneficial for the environment to recycle it. 

It is worth noting that there are different types of glass that can be recycled together. Tougher glasses like baking dishes cannot be recycled with most other glasses as it has a much higher melting point. When considering disposing of these types of glass, it is worth contacting your local recycling center to know whether they will recycle them, and how to dispose of them correctly.

Is plastic recyclable?

Plastic is an entirely man-made material. Due to its sturdiness, durability, and versatility, plastic is commonly mass-produced. Unfortunately, the chemical structure of most plastics means that they are resistant to the natural processes of degradation. 

This doesn’t mean to say that plastic isn’t recyclable. There are many types of plastic that are recyclable by local governments in the UK. The most common types of recyclable plastics are:

  • Polyethylene Terephthalate, which mainly constitutes water bottles and plastic trays.
  • High-Density Polyethylene, mainly found in milk cartons and shampoo bottles.
  • Polypropylene, such as margarine and butter tubs, and ready meal trays.

In the UK, there are many different signs on plastic packaging that indicate whether it can be recycled or not.

Does plastic harm the environment? 

As plastic takes far too long to naturally degrade, masses of plastic can accumulate in the environment, and be detrimental to global ecosystems. 

Chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the soil, which can further pollute local groundwater and surrounding water systems. This is most apparent in landfills and can cause a threat to both wildlife and people. 

Incinerating plastic can be even more harmful to people and the environment. Burning PVC and other plastics can cause severe health problems like cancer, neurological damage, child development disorders, and many other issues. These are also just as harmful to animals.

Which is better for the environment: glass or plastic?

If you’re stumbling at the supermarket over which packaging to buy, we’ve got you covered. Now more than ever we are conscious of our habits and the effects they have on the environment. So, if we’re looking to improve our eco-conscious efforts, what packaging should we be choosing: glass or plastic?

There are many things to consider when comparing the sustainability of glass and plastic. Firstly, it is important to consider that glass is 100% recyclable, compared to the average of 9% of plastics that get recycled each year.

This is all well and good, but as the demand for glass has increased over the years, the costly production of it has also increased. To keep up with demand, manufacturers are producing more new glass packaging instead of recycling due to the amount of time it takes to do so.

Plastic, on the other hand, poses many more health risks to both the environment and living organisms alike. As plastic is made from many chemicals to create its sturdy and versatile nature, it is prone to leaking dangerous toxins into the environment. Once these reach local water sources, both humans and wildlife are at risk of many health problems. 

Generally, for its ability to be widely recycled among many local councils and recycling centres, glass poses less of a threat to people and the environment. If you are looking to make a change to your habits and be more eco-conscious, then start by swapping your plastic purchases for glass. This way you can reuse your containers without the worry of chemicals and toxins tainting your food and drinks. When replacing your plastic receptacles, be wary of what plastics are recyclable and how best to dispose of them.