To pack or not to pack? That is the question. The week-old crushed plastic bottle at the bottom of your bag does have a home it needs to go to, and it’s definitely not in your bag. When it comes to packing material and its disposability in the beverage industry, the options are so vast and varied and flashy it’s impossible to not get overwhelmed. And if you’re a bit of a green thumb like we are, you’re just as concerned about what holds the delicious goodness you consume. It’s hard enough to keep track of what goes into your body, but we need to watch out what goes on outside it too. As our responsible consumers, we know that you’re looking out for the environment both inside and outside your body, and so we’ve dug out the answer for you to the eternal question. What’s the most eco-friendly packaging for beverages?
The myth of Aluminium, Glass and Plastic.
Ah, sustainability. The not-quite new buzzword. We need to save our home and therefore, we must be sustainable. We keep hearing this word with an urgency that gets our blood pumping, and for good reason. We did research into how to do our part, and the answer was, well. Surprising, to say the least.
Aluminum cans have started to replace plastic bottles in the beverage industry, and although they’re a good alternative, they come with their own set of problems. Manufacturing aluminum is no easy task. The mining of bauxite (the type of rock from which we extract aluminum) can devastate ecosystems. 
Aluminum cans often get dented or crushed in transit. When customers receive damaged cans, they send them back. Not only does returning products increase costs exponentially, but the emission rates also go up as companies burn double the number of fossil fuels to transport the cans to and fro twice.
So, if aluminum cans are not the solution, does it mean that glass bottles are the best option?
The short answer is no.
Glass bottles marketed as the “environmentally friendly” alternative are a source of Greenhouse Gas emission which is much higher than that of PET or Aluminum. The GHG Emission levels of PET is shockingly so much lower than that of glass and aluminium, at 314.9lbs/1000 units compared to aluminium’s 570.9lbs/1000 units and glass’ 500.4lbs/1000 units. The misconception that glass is more sustainable is partly great marketing tactics and partly due to greenwashing or misinformation. Yeah, sure glass bottles are nice to look at and feel expensive, luxurious even. But the breakage and recycling rates are poor in the long run, therefore making it unsustainable.
So. What about plastic.
The plastic used in bottles is known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is known to be the cleanest and greenest type of plastic. It has the maximum recycling rate across the board. India, in particular, has the best PET recycling rate in the world- more than 60% recyclability, compared to glass’ 45% recyclability. The GHG emissions are also lower than glass or aluminium, as stated above. We had a conversation with the experts at The Disposal Company that confirmed the same. You can read more about them on our blog here.
Multi-layer packaging, or MLP’s often contains a paper and aluminum lining followed by an inner plastic lining. The problem with MLP’s is that every layer has to be segregated before recycling which is incredibly time and energy consuming. These thin layers of plastic are below 50 microns, which makes it hard to recycle and is mostly just dumped. Boxed water companies often use MLP instead of plastic bottles and market their products as environmentally friendly.
Our stance on sustainability.
When we created Polka Pop, we made a knowledgeable, conscious decision not only to utilise PET but to use a higher value of gram per inch of PET which, granted, is more expensive, but is much safer to dispose. This PET is then recycled into yarn which can be made into polyester clothes among its several other uses.
As our consumers, we take it upon ourselves to make sure that you are aware of why we do what we do, and in this instance, it’s the concept of greenwashing. Don’t be afraid to ask companies how they take the responsibility to recycle their products. This way, you don’t have to feel guilty anymore about that week old plastic bottle in your bag. As long as you segregate your waste and toss it into your recyclables, rest assured, you’ve done your part.
We’re always happy to answer your questions!