Glass vs Plastic: What's better?
Sustainability is rarely an either/or answer. In an all-or-nothing society, it’s a complex and challenging topic with varying shades of gray. Perfection is never the goal but progress is.
“Plastic-free” or “only eco-friendly glass” claims are paramount, often rich with greenwashing. Adding a little green leaf to packaging doesn’t make a brand demonstrably more eco than the next. What is the brand doing behind the scenes to evaluate their carbon footprint and impact? How are they reforming their processes to improve and reduce their waste?
What’s better? Short answer, it depends. There is no one size fits all solution.
Glass can be endlessly recycled, hooray!! However, we rely on immense fossil fuels to generate enough heat and energy to to melt down the glass to be reused. Glass is also fragile and heavier, which requires additional care in packaging, and heavier parcels increase carbon emissions.
Plastic can only be reused a certain amount of times and can only be downcycled, meaning it becomes an item of lesser quality. However, it does require exceedingly less energy to create plastics. Plastics are durable, more practical in certain applications, weigh less in shipments, and are cost effective.
Yes, I use plastic with some of my products. That doesn’t make me the forager of evil. If a product will be coming in contact with water or to be used in the shower/bath, plastic is the safest solution. If I want to carry my lip balm in my pocket, I’d much prefer it didn’t leak all over my jeans from the tin or paperboard tube. However, I thoroughly understand the implications surrounding plastic use on our environment.
The best solution is a complete overhaul of our recycling system as sadly much of it ends up in landfills and oceans. Until then, we can all do our part to reduce our plastic use and waste as much as possible. Refill and reuse. Make smart and practical swaps.
Even better? Challenge companies that make eco friendly claims. Hold them accountable and ask for receipts.