Plastic- that’s the first in your mind, but is plastic really the most detrimental to the environment than the rest?
You would be surprised to know what the researchers have to say about it. Researchers at the university of Southampton conducted a study on various drink containers. They found that glass is more harmful to the environment than plastic due to the fact that it is mined from rare materials and requires more fossil fuels to produce and ship.
What exactly makes glass bottles harmful to the environment?
Glass takes more resources and energy to produce. Glass is made from raw materials such as Silica sand and dolomite, which while mining can release harmful pollutants of which some cause lung ailments such as silicosis. During the production of glass, carbon dioxide is released, and the high temperature needed to melt these materials is powered overwhelmingly by fossil fuels. For these reasons glass bottles have a 95% higher contribution to Global warming than Aluminum cans. Then again, Recycling glass also takes a lot of energy, as elevated temperatures required to melt glass results in more greenhouse gas emissions, hence making glass bottles harmful for the environment.
Meanwhile, Plastic’s lightweight and resistance to chemicals makes it an ideal drink container; but the harmful impact plastic has on the environment is well known. Glass and aluminum don’t break up into harmful micro particles like plastic do. Recycling plastic requires less energy due to the lower temperatures needed to melt the raw material. But plastic will always be ‘unnatural’ in the environment because of its properties.
Shifting our attention to Aluminum cans, they contribute less to global warming than glass and plastic because making them consumes less energy and resources. Cans are lighter than glass and are not made from fossil fuels either, like plastic. Aluminum Cans also contribute less to environmental problems, like acid rain and oxygen-free zones in the ocean. While, creating glass and plastic requires more electricity which generates more sulfur dioxide pollution, a leading cause of acid rain. Extracting the materials to make glass and plastic releases more phosphates into the environment, which can deplete oxygen from the water.
However aluminum also has its own impacts on the environment. It is made from refining bauxite ore, and mining bauxite can pollute water in the countries it is sourced from.
Now coming to the crux of the article, comparing Aluminum, plastic or glass, recycling an aluminum can saves 95% of the energy used to make a new can and no additional material needs to be mined or transported. Therefore, Recycled aluminum cans were found to be the least environmentally damaging single-use containers.
In summary, even though some of these containers are better than others, all of them have an environmental impact. The best option would be to phase out single-use packaging entirely and introduce a system of reusing containers.