Glass vs. Plastic

A strong argument to use plastic is its lightweight characteristics, which takes less energy to transport. Glass is heavier and definitely takes energy to create and recycle, as does plastic. But when we consider materials, it’s important to look BEYOND mere transport, and consider extraction, health and end of life. Glass recycling is more efficient than plastic recycling, given it presents a closed loop/homogeneous waste stream that can be reused indefinitely, compared to plastic that has 1000s of variations, is unrealistic to sort, and can only be downcycled into things of lower value a max of 2-3 time, then continues to break down indefinitely.  Because of this, glass has a better recycling report card.   Emphasis should be on reuse before recycling whenever possible, which is why we’re pushing for return/deposit legislation through the WRAP act here in Washington State (similar to CA, CN, HI, IA, ME, MA, MI & NY).

When it comes to end of life and toxicity impact to the environment, glass is a far safer bet.   Agree it’s better, in every case, to move to a circular economy, reusing what we have as many times as we can, provided it’s safe.   There’s a great research study my Beyond Plastics prof (Judith Enck)  cites in her Beyond Plastics course from Dr. Sherry “Sam” Mason PhD of Penn State.  Dr. Mason conducted a study of 159 water taps in 114 countries, and found that all contained microplastics.   She found twice as many microplastics in plastic bottled water, hence the caution of safe reuse of plastic to hold food and beverages.  

In summary, focusing on: Reuse, circular economy, changing our consumption habits, foregoing unnecessary plastics, and finding biodegradable and safe packaging alternatives.  There have definitely been some interesting alternatives introduced made of fungi, seaweed and bamboo.   A combo of reuse + continuing to explore biodegradable materials can lead to positive change. 

Published by indysay

Myself and my half-full glass accept toppers and help saving the planet!

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