With the growing awareness of climate change and environmental impact, sustainability is becoming increasingly important to manufacturers and consumers alike.
Companies worldwide are making changes to their manufacturing processes to minimise their carbon footprint and leave a more positive impact on the planet and their consumers.
These companies can achieve better sustainability and lower carbon footprint by making better raw material choices for their products and packaging, minimising harmful environmental impact and minimising energy use and waste generation during the entire supply chain process.
Today we have many choices when producing reusable products, such as glass and plastics of various origin.
However, as a customer or a company that cares for the planet and considers sustainability an essential element, did you know that plastic offers a significant proven advantage over glass?
Plastic offers greater sustainability in three main areas.
1. Plastic Offers Better Sustainability of Raw Materials
A very apparent benefit of plastic over glass is in its sustainable use of raw materials. Both glass and plastic, like many other products, depending on finite natural resources for production.
However, plastic offers unique benefits in recycling possibilities and applications vs the constant drain on raw materials observed during glass manufacturing.
Sand is the main ingredient in glass manufacturing. Although seen as an abundant resource, its current consumption is happening faster than it is naturally replenished.
The high silica sand used to make glass is specially extracted from river and sea beds, leaving a damaging impact on the environment.
The displacement of sand negatively affects many ecosystems. The communities living close to the shores are prone to flooding and erosion due to the large-scale excavations.
Due to these consequences, sand consumption in glass manufacturing is not sustainable or environmentally sound.
Also, given the fragile nature of glass compared to plastics, it is not considered durable. The short lifespan of a glass product creates a constant need for replacing and recycling, leading to higher energy consumption.
However, sustainable alternative plastics have almost all qualities of glass and more without the environmental harm caused during the manufacturing process.
2. Plastic Uses Less Energy to Produce and recycle
Producing glass is a highly heat-intensive process and uses a large amount of energy.
The glass making process requires energy equivalent to 3.0 grams of CO2 per 1.0 gram of glass. On the other hand, a similar volume of plastic utilises much less energy to produce.
It is estimated that a glass cup releases five times CO2 than producing a reusable plastic cup. Therefore the manufacturing of a reusable plastic cup has only 20% of the carbon impact of the glass cup.
In other words, it would take five reusable plastic cups to equal the environmental impact of producing only one glass cup showing a clear advantage of reusable plastic over glass.
Recycling invariably helps to conserve our natural resources. Because plastic recycling also consumes significantly less energy than glass, recycling plastic has become more environmentally friendly than recycling glass due to low energy consumption and emissions.
Plastics such as Tritan copolyester are planet-friendly options that are becoming more popular. In a circular economy, recycling plastic to make new products removes plastics from the environment. It reuses the resin to manufacture new products with low energy consumptions and lower greenhouse gas emissions that are damaging to our planet.
3. Plastic Uses Less Energy to Transport
One of the unique negative features of glass is its fragile state, which causes extra packaging during the supply chain process to keep it from cracking or breaking.
In turn, a vehicle can carry a more significant number of reusable plastic cups simply because they use less packaging, which takes up less space.
Secondly, there is a significant difference in the weight of comparable volume products manufactured with glass or plastic.
It will take more fuel to transport glass products the same distance as plastic products simply because glass is much heavier during transportation.
More fuel means more significant carbon emissions, resulting in a greater negative impact on the environment.
Understand the Differences and Help Save the Planet
Different products and services may require product qualities and attributes unique to glass or plastic. However, plastics such as Tritan copolyester has been able to blur the lines between the characteristics of glass and plastics and offer more sustainable solutions to the manufacturing industry.
Tritan from Eastman is a durable plastic with much more excellent shatter resistance than other plastics and glass.
It won't warp or crack in the dishwasher. And, unlike stainless steel, Tritan won't dent or ding. Not only is Tritan™ a BPA-free plastic, but it also doesn't contain BPS (bisphenol S) or any other bisphenols.
Check out our blog on Why manufacture with Tritan? for more interesting facts.
Uppercup is manufactured from polypropylene (#5 recyclable plastic) called Eastman Tritan which also has a talc filling that makes the cup robust and virtually unbreakable whilst ensuring it won't become soft and flimsy over time.
Being light, heat resistant and sturdy, Plastic number 5 or PP plastic is the second-most widely produced plastic in the world.
Read here on how Uppercup is closing the loop by recycling your old Uppercups to product Uppercup+.
Apart from reusable plastic cups being more energy-efficient than glass cups, they are also better than single-use cups.
As per research, when replacing paper cups, it takes less than 20 uses to become more efficient than using a single-use cup after taking into account the cost of use and the environmental impact of washing.
Are glass cups Australian made?
Apart from sustainability, there is another reason why reusable plastic cups rank higher when compared to glass cups.
Currently, there are no glass cups manufactured in Australia due to many reasons. Therefore the cups we now see in the market are all imports into the country and are not Australian made. There is no direct community benefit within Australia through these operations.
Read more on why Buy Australian made products.
Therefore when choosing reusable cups, Uppercup, a 100% Australian owned and made product manufactured by a B Corp certified, a female-led organisation is always the better choice.
If reducing your carbon footprint is a high priority, the above points should highlight that plastic has distinct advantages.
Understanding these differences will help to make a more informed decision about the products you choose.