Packaging it right

Sparkling water bottle

When it comes to packing material in the beverage industry, we are overwhelmed by the options presented to us. It’s hard enough to keep track of which preservatives you should avoid and which ingredients are good for your body, but now we must also make the right choice in packaging material as responsible consumers. Glass versus Aluminum cans? Is plastic the enemy or are we just using it wrong? We’ve got the answers for you. 

Aluminum and Glass

There is an urgent need to protect our environment now more than ever. We must focus on sustainability, and move away from materials that deplete our natural resources and harm the environment we live in. 

Aluminum cans have started to replace plastic bottles in the beverage industry. Although they are a good alternative, they come with their own set of problems. Manufacturing aluminium is no easy task. The mining of bauxite (the type of rock from which aluminum is extracted) can devastate ecosystems. [1]

Sparkling water can

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 amount of fossil fuels to transport the cans to and fro twice. 

If aluminum cans are not the solution… Are glass bottles the best option? The short answer is no. 

Sparkling water glass bottles

Glass bottles are often marketed to us as the “environmentally friendly” alternative, however, the Greenhouse Gas emissions of glass across it's life cycle are much higher than that of PET or Aluminum. 

Here are the exact GHG emission levels in ascending order: [2]

PET GHG : 314.9lbs/1000 units.

Glass GHG:  500.4lbs/1000 units

Aluminium GHG: 570.9lbs/1000 units

Can vs Glass vs Plastic

 

The misconception that glass is more sustainable is partly great marketing tactics and partly due to green washing or misinformation. Yes, glass bottles are nice to look at and they provide a more premium feel but the breakage and recycling rates are poor in the long run.

PET Plastic 

There is no denying the prevalence of plastic in our everyday life. If chosen right, certain types of plastic make superior packaging materials when compared to glass and aluminum.  PET plastic or Polyethylene terephthalate has the maximum rate of recycling across the board. India in particular has the best PET recycling rate in the world with more than 60% recyclability. Glass is more lower at 45% recyclability. Greenhouse gas emissions are also lowest in PET across the lifecycle when compared to glass and aluminum (refer to graph above). We had a conversation with the experts at The Disposal Company who confirmed the same. You can read more about them on our blog here

What we did at Polka Pop

When we created Polka Pop, we made a conscious decision not only to use PET but to choose a very thick gsm (grams per square meter) of PET which is costlier but much safer to dispose of. This PET can then be recycled into yarn which is can be made into polyester clothes among its several other uses. 

Beware of MLP 

Multi layer packaging or MLP often contains a paper and aluminum lining followed by an inner plastic lining. The problem with MLPs is that every layer has to be segregated before recycling which is tedious to do. These thin layers of plastic that are below 50 microns must be avoided at all costs. Boxed water companies often use MLP instead of plastic bottles and market their products as being environmentally friendly.

As responsible consumers, we must be aware of greenwashing. Just saying something is recyclable, throwing it into a landfill and hoping it will take care of itself is not the solution. Don’t be afraid to ask companies how they take the responsibility to recycle their products. 

We’re always happy to answer your questions! 

References: 

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/spotlight/understanding-pet-bottles-how-it-is-better-than-glass-metal-or-aluminium-containers/articleshow/72975428.cms

[2 ]https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2009/09/21/PET-bottles-greener-than-glass-or-aluminium-Study

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