Why PET Is The Better Option
While people are understandably concerned about plastic pollution, the impact of aluminum and glass containers hasn’t generated the same kind of headlines but it needs some scrutiny too. Let us show you how they compare.
Aluminum Creates More Greenhouse Gases
A February 2016 study on gas emissions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using the widely accepted Waste Reduction Model (WARM), shows that aluminum cans, even when manufactured with recycled materials, generate more tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per ton of metal than do PET bottles or containers with recycled PET.
Aluminum Impacts The Environment
Too many packages become litter and end up in our waterways. Aluminum cans have been discarded into the world’s oceans since their invention in 1959. But, unlike many plastics that float on or near the surface and remain visible to the naked eye, aluminum cans sink. The concerns are:
- Cans accumulate on ocean floors, in delicate coral reefs, and in bays and riverbeds.
- There, they are more difficult to see, collect and recycle.
- Can tabs break off and are ingested by wildlife and fish.
All aluminum starts out as bauxite ore, which must be mined. Mining causes:
- Land erosion
- Pollution of nearby waterways
Aluminum must also be refined before it’s made into a can or container. The process uses caustic soda and other chemicals to extract aluminum from the ore. According to the EPA’s recent Bauxite and Alumina Production Wastes report, this process leaves behind residual byproducts that can find their way into soil and water, including:
Aluminum Cans Contain a Plastic Liner
Food and beverage cans have a plastic liner, often a bisphenol-A (BPA)–based epoxy, which forms a barrier between the product and metal, protecting against foodborne diseases. On its website, the Aluminum Association states its position on BPA: “The Association understands that ongoing research and study is taking place on the safety and efficacy of BPA, and will continue to monitor these developments closely.”
What About Glass?
Glass Creates More Greenhouse Gases
Glass containers create more greenhouse gases than plastic containers. According to Springer.com, an academic publisher dedicated to the advancement of science, its 2008 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) found that “glass jars produce between a quarter and a third more greenhouse gases than plastic jars.”
Glass transportation costs are higher.
Glass, by nature, is heavier than plastic, weighing up to 10 times more. This makes it more costly to transport and requires more fuel to be consumed and/or more trips to be made, according to PackagingoftheWorld.com. Increased emissions from either or both issues creates even more greenhouse gases.
Shattered Glass is Dangerous
Glass shatters if it’s dropped or damaged, which is a safety hazard for consumers. PET bottles and containers are flexible and will not shatter, whether in transit or when tossed into a recycling bin.
Glass Fragments Are a Waste Problem
Broken glass is as dangerous for waste haulers and recyclers to handle and sort as it is for consumers. In fact, according to Solutions.recyclecoach.com, many facilities are not equipped to remove tiny bits of broken glass from other recyclables. Broken glass can also contaminate other recyclables such as paper and cardboard. Today, more and more recycling companies do not accept broken container glass at all.