Unless you have spent the last decade on a desert or an island, you have heard about the huge damage single-use plastics do to the environment. We are drowning in plastic: according to Greenpeace, a truckload of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans every minute. Microplastics are already detectable in our rivers and even in tap water. So, there is no question that we need to find a better alternative to packaging. But what should it be? Is glass, aluminium, or recycled plastic the best choice? Read our article to find out!
Recycling is the key to a sustainable future
The primary aim of recycling is to reduce the amount of waste we produce, but it is also especially important to ensure that new products can be made in an increasingly environmentally friendly way.
And why is this so important? To illustrate, here are some thought-provoking figures:
- only 9% of plastic bottles produced worldwide are recycled, yet the damage caused by plastics is one of the most well-known environmental issues.
- If the entire population of the world were to step on the scales, we would weigh 316 million tonnes. In contrast, we have so far produced 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic.
- 5 trillion pieces of plastic litter the oceans. That is enough to wrap around the planet 400 times.
- It takes about 450 years to completely decompose the plastic we throw in the trash, so it is no wonder that plastic pollution is one of our most pressing problems.
So, to save our future we need to start recycling.
But what do you choose? Pros and cons of packaging
In recent years, glass containers have become the benchmark for a zero-waste lifestyle. Understandably so, since once you buy glass containers you can refill them repeatedly, so you can even eliminate the packaging issue altogether for a while. It is also true that glass - at least brown glass - can be recycled an infinite number of times.
So, what could be the downside? Firstly, its weight: since glass is much heavier than plastic and aluminium cans, it requires much more energy to transport. Not to mention the fact that, due to its fragility, there is always the "collateral damage" to consider.
Another disadvantage is that recycling glass requires sand, which is a finite resource on our planet. And research shows that even after repeated recycling, glass has the highest greenhouse footprint. It takes about 20-25 refills to compete with PET bottles for green solutions.
As with glass, aluminium can be recycled infinitely, as illustrated by the fact that, according to the Aluminium Association, 75% of the aluminium ever produced in the world is still in use today. Moreover, its much lighter weight solves the transport problem.
Again, the problem is more in the manufacturing process: aluminium cans are made from bauxite, which is mined in a far from environmentally friendly way. Moreover, it is estimated that the production process produces twice as many greenhouse gases as plastic. Thomas Kinnaman of Bucknell University puts it this way about the use of aluminium:
“... it partly solves the problem (less plastic) and partly creates a new one (more aluminium). We could put the water in solid gold containers (which are quite easy to recycle), but that is not the best solution, is it?”
Unlike the previous two, plastic can be recycled only a few times, but at least the process requires much less energy. Being about 40 times lighter than glass and even space-saving, it requires much less energy to transport and has a much lower greenhouse gas emission rate.
The real problem here is with us, the people: a huge proportion of plastic bottles end up in the rubbish, as we have already said, and pollute the environment. To improve recycling rates, we need sustainable companies and conscious consumers, and we all need to do something about it.
Which will emerge victorious from this battle?
While each alternative has its advantages and disadvantages, experts say that recycled plastic is the most sustainable option because of its significantly lower production costs.
And at an individual level, the best you can do is to consciously buy recycled products and take care of your own selective waste collection. What is more, you can also significantly reduce your ecological footprint by choosing domestic brands, as this means much shorter delivery times.
CYCLE's products also stand out among the Hungarian eco-cleaning products, which are made using recycled water and 100% natural, environmentally friendly ingredients such as acetic acid and citric acid. And apart from the spray nozzle or closure, their packaging is made entirely of recycled plastic.