Glass vs Plastic Packaging

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Since the introduction of plastic packaging, the debate has raged on: glass or plastic? Brands and consumers have weighed in over the years with healthy debate from both viewpoints. As a supplier of both glass and plastic, we wanted to outline the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide which product is right for you. Through the last two decades plastic has steadily taken over as being the more common packaging type, but glass is still very much in use. Knowing what the packaging is used for in the final product can help determine whether glass or plastic is the best material to move forward with. Throughout the retail landscape, you will still see both plastic and glass are used in a variety of household and consumer products, and industries.

Glass vs Plastic Packaging

Disadvantages & Benefits of Plastic Packaging

There are many types of plastic containers. When it comes to food, plastic could be used to package, store, deliver or serve food to end consumers. The container industry (think Tupperware), uses plastic because it can be easily and safely moved between the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher. Plastic isn’t only for food and household products. Plastic is also used in construction to create durable, sustainable long-lasting structures. The automotive industry has been using plastic to innovate safety features and improve performance. The electronics industry wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for plastic. It has helped improve and evolve products that we use in our everyday lives. There are 7 different ways to classify plastics. Each classification has benefits and disadvantages as a packaging option. 

Some of the benefits of plastic packaging include:

  • Helps to protect and preserve goods:
    • There is a reason you see it more than glass in the grocery store these days. Technology has come a long way and plastic containers do a great job of sealing in flavor and preserving it for a long period of time.
  • Reduced transportation weight
    • Glass is much heavier than plastic, which leads to higher transportation costs, including cushioning to keep those glass packed products safe. Because plastic is light, there are large cost savings when transporting truckloads of plastic packed products. In 2012 Planters switched from glass to plastic for their line of peanut products and reduced shipping weight by a whopping 84%!
  • Performance and energy-efficient
    • New plastics perform well in a variety of applications from high heat to freezing temperatures. Since plastic has a lower melting point, they are more energy-efficient and leave a smaller carbon footprint compared to glass manufacturing.
  • Cheaper than glass
    • Plastic is much cheaper than its glass counterpart. Normally manufactured in large quantities helps keep the overall cost of the material low.
  • Highly durable
    • Most plastic containers are designed to absorb a small amount of trauma without breaking or cracking. Being durable also helps pack more product into tractor-trailers or shipping containers without fear of breakage. 

Some of the disadvantages of plastic packaging include:

  • Poor Longevity- Plastic degrades over time
    • Plastic is affected over time by scratches, being dented or cracked. It can also be compromised by excessive light.
  • Absorbs flavors and smells easily
    • When used for food storage plastic can absorb color, flavors, and smells of the product being contained. Think garlic, tomato sauce, or curry dishes.
  • Large environmental and health impact
    • Even with excellent recycling resources across the country plastic is still one of the leading causes of pollution. Always make sure to recycle your plastic waste whenever possible. It’s also not biodegradable, so making the most of your plastic products before disposing of can go a long way.
  • At higher risk for high levels of BPA
    • While the chances are low, there are still some plastics that may contain BPA. Know all products on Packaging Options Direct are 100% BPA free. Read more in our last blog post.

Disadvantages & Benefits of Glass Packaging

Glass packaging has been around for over 100 years and is still a staple on the grocery store shelf. Pickles and olives come to mind as products that will always use glass containers. The beer, wine, and spirit markets also use glass for a majority of their products. Just like plastic, using glass packaging should be determined by the product that will be held within (the acidity of pickle juice wouldn’t do well in plastic). Glass is not only a standard in the food industry, but also in some non-food industries as well. The cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry uses glass to protect sensitive creams and expensive drugs that need to be protected from outside elements. 

Some of the benefits of glass packaging include:

  • Glass is nonporous and impermeable
    • Because of this, it does not absorb flavors or smells. There are no interactions with glass packaging and the final product. This makes it perfect for sensitive wines or spirits.
  • Has an almost zero rate of chemical interactions
    • This ensures that the final product inside the glass container keeps its taste, aroma, and flavor longer.
  • Made from natural materials
    • Glass is manufactured using superheated sand from the earth.
  • FDA has designated it as fully safe
    • With no ability to leach chemicals during hot or cold temperatures glass is 100% FDA approved for a variety of applications.
  • Glass is 100% recyclable
    • Glass is much easier to recycle than plastic. Almost every piece of glass you encounter has a portion of recycled material in it.
  • Can be recycled infinitely
    • Glass can always be crushed down and reused in new glass products. Most glass manufacturing companies have a minimum of recyclable material to help the environment and keep costs down.

Some of the disadvantages of glass packaging include:

  • Transportation costs are higher than plastic
    • It’s known that glass is much heavier than plastic. That can lead to higher transportation costs from the manufacturer and also while moving the final product to its final destination.
  • Glass manufacturing is high energy-consuming
    • This is due to the high temperature required for processing and manufacturing
  • Not highly impact resistant
    • While you might be able to get away with dropping a plastic bottle without it breaking, that is rarely the case when it comes to glass products.
  • Rigid and brittle
    • Glass can break without significant strain. When broken it can be extremely dangerous because of sharp shards.

The main takeaways from this post show that there are serious advantages and disadvantages to both glass and plastic packaging. It really comes down to the final product. Use your best discretion when deciding what you want to go with. Packaging Options Direct offers a wide variety of both glass and plastic packaging solutions. If you are having trouble deciding what’s best for you, please contact us. Our knowledgeable staff is always happy to assist and make sure you find the perfect bottle or jar for your products.

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