Friday, June 21, 2024

Practically Living Green

Showing practical reasons to live green.

Journal & Opinions

Is Glass More Environmentally Friendly Than Plastic?

One thing that’s hard to miss is that many environmentalists prefer using glass over plastic. And that’s because plastic has gotten a very bad rep from the excessive plastic pollution in our oceans. However, that raises the question, are glass products any better?

The answer may shock you.

Why Is Glass So Popular With Environmentalists?

One of the biggest reasons glass is so popular is because of its reusability. Odds are you have a glass plate, bowl, or cup in your home. And you probably wash them on a daily basis. That reusability is only part of why they are popular.

In fact, in many cases, glass can last through multiple family generations, assuming it’s not dropped.

However, there are plenty of plastic dishwares that can have the same or an even longer shelf life considering that they are more durable. Not to mention, that using plastic dishware is safer when children are involved.

The real reason is that most glass is recyclable, at least when it comes to glass bottles. You can recycle them over and over again and not lose quality.

Outside of this, the only positive is that it isn’t plastic.

The Problems With Glass

Broken Glass

Most people know that glass is made of sand. And while you may think we have an abundance of sand, the truth is that not all sand is usable.

For example, you cannot use desert sand to make glass because it is not actually pure sand. Instead, there are other substances that would need to be filtered out. That’s why the majority of sand used to make glass comes from beaches and river banks.

In these cases, humanity is actually using more sand than the planet can replenish. In fact, we use more sand than oil every year.

Removing that sand from those environments is not environmentally friendly. Instead, it disrupts the ecosystem and hurts the organisms that rely on it. For reference, some microorganisms consume this sand.

In this sense, it is far more impactful than creating new plastic. Now let’s discuss its recyclability.

While it is true that glass can be recycled over and over without getting any weaker, there is a catch. Not all glass is recyclable. Those plates and glasses you use at home, cannot be recycled. And oftentimes the glass that can, is either contaminated or never gets put into a proper recycling bin.

While plastic has an abysmal 9% recycling rate in the US, glass only has a 30% recycling rate. Even worse, glass is put into the recycling bin is usually sent to landfills.

Thus, glass is really not all that environmentally friendly when you dig a little deeper.

But Is Glass Better Than Plastic?

Well, honestly, no it’s not. In fact, it’s objectively worse in many regards.

For example, glass is fragile, which creates a big problem when it comes to shipping. You usually need more packaging material to keep it safe than plastic items. In fact, you might actually use plastic to keep glass safe.

Glass is also a heavier product, which means those trucks will use more fuel when transporting. Not to mention that glass requires higher heat during its production than plastic. Higher heat means more energy is used to create it.

Thus, the emissions behind using glass end up being much higher than plastic.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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