Glass packaging: the clear choice for planet Earth and human health


Glass packaging has been trusted for thousands of years to protect food and beverages. As a kinder packaging material for the health of the Earth and the health of Earth’s people, it’s also the clear packaging choice of the future.

Glass is made from pure natural ingredients: sand, limestone, soda ash and recycled glass called cullet. Glass is virtually inert and doesn’t interact with the food or beverage it holds. But not all food packaging materials are built the same.

You may have missed Plastic Free July this year, possibly distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, but it is a global movement, established in 2011, that aims to encourage behavioural transformation and shift mindsets to heal the planet and its inhabitants.

Those who participate in Plastic Free July choose to refuse single-use plastics for a month and can feel safe doing so even through the pandemic. A statement released in June by more than 100 scientists from 18 countries addressed concerns that the coronavirus has raised around reusable food containers.

Last year, Sir David Attenborough called plastic pollution an “unfolding catastrophe” and supported a report that suggested mismanaged waste kills up to a million humans a year globally. In parallel, Jane Muncke, managing director of Swiss-based charity the Food Packaging Forum, educates and warns about the known, and unknown, chemicals that migrate into our food from packaging.

Plastic Free July and similar initiatives raise awareness that we all have a role to play. Individually and collectively we must change behaviours now, for the good of the planet and for the health of all.

What you see is what you get

“The first step is to increase our recycling and that’s true for all packaging materials,” says Randolph Burns, chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer at O-I Glass, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of glass packaging. “In Europe, for example, glass is already being recycled at 76 per cent, but the industry is joining forces behind the Close The Glass Loop initiative to reach a whopping 90 per cent of glass collection.”

However, is increasing recycling enough? Finding alternative and innovative materials is no simple task. Due diligence is paramount. For instance, there have been plenty of headlines touting the sustainable attributes of paper wine “bottles” recently. Yet the containers are more reminiscent of milk cartons than bottles and these “paper” products are more complex than you might initially think.

If you’re worried about the future of the planet and concerned about the health of your loved ones, don’t compromise: choose glass whenever you can

The containers are created through chemical pulping, plus a plastic coating is added to act as a protective barrier between the wine and the paper. No one wants a soggy wine bottle, after all.

And although paper bottles may save on transportation costs compared to glass, which is heavier, sustainability should be an end-to-end consideration.

“There’s a reason everyone wants to imitate the original glass bottle – it creates such an emotional bond with consumers – but you can’t,” says Burns, “O-I’s glass is Cradle to Cradle Certified and is even the first food and beverage packaging material to achieve a platinum score for material health.”

Indeed, what you see is what you get with glass: just glass. As a material, it is beautiful and transformative. It is also 100 per cent recyclable by nature and it can be recycled over and over without losing quality.

Whenever possible, choose glass

Sustainability matters with a packaging material, as consumer trends illustrate people are increasingly choosing food and beverages that support a healthier lifestyle and are kinder to the planet.

When consumers choose glass, they’re also choosing packaging that doesn’t interact with the food or beverage it holds. It’s the only packaging material that is “generally recognised as safe” (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration. Without odour, it naturally protects what it carries and is impermeable and non-porous.

The message around the health benefits of glass is reaching consumers, too. Some 87 per cent of Europeans prefer it as a packaging material, a Friends of Glass study shows.

If you’re worried about the future of the planet and concerned about the health of your loved ones, don’t compromise: choose glass whenever you can.

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