Glass vs Plastic: 7 Factors to Consider for Packaging your Product
Along with the popularization of plastic packaging came the question we’re still debating: glass or plastic?
Over the years, manufacturers and customers have considered both options with reasonable discussion. Plastic has been consistently embraced as the most widespread form of packaging over the past two decades, but glass remains strong in use.
Knowing the main differences between these two types of packaging will help you decide if glass or plastic is the right choice for your products.
Here are seven factors to consider when choosing the packaging material for your product:
What goes inside the glass/plastic package is a significant deciding factor between these two options. If you’re selling a liquor that needs to retain its carbonation, glass packaging may be a better option. Shampoos and shower gels, for example, are often packaged in a plastic container that is more convenient to handle.
Moreover, plastic bottle caps are often used for glass and plastic bottles, even though there are alternatives. Also, some products require you to use bottle cappers, while others don’t.
Glass is the only packaging material that the FDA considers to be “generally recognized as safe.” It guarantees that the content of glass containers would not interfere negatively with the package. It’s essential for items that can cause a reaction, like pharmaceuticals and alcohol.
However, there are different types of plastic, like PET, PP, HDPE, LDPE, etc. Each has its chemical stability, temperature classification, effect tolerance, and other characteristics. With so many choices, you’re sure to find a plastic container that’s right for your product.
Glass-packaged goods have a high-quality feel to them. A 2015 study looked at how people judged plastic and glass-packaged foods based on their appearance and taste. They reported that enjoyment ratings were stronger for glass packaging than for plastic packaging. Whereas shoppers associate the quality of the products with the extra poundage or strength of glass packaging, it’s evident that glass is perceived as a premium look and feel.
Glass is heavier and more delicate than plastic. Even without significant pressure, glass could break, and sharp shards could be dangerous. On the other hand, plastic is lighter and durable, making it cheaper and more eco-friendly. It requires less transportation energy and leaves a smaller carbon trace.
Less weight also means less burden in the customer’s hands. Consumers can buy bundles if the product is compact and easy to get from their vehicles.
Glass is not only more costly to transport, but it is also more expensive to make, thanks to the amount of power required during manufacturing. As reported by an Energy Information Administration report, glass production is a high-power industry, responsible for 1% of overall industrial energy use.
Plastic has a lower melting temperature than glass, taking less energy during processing. Plastic is more cost-effective than glass in terms of both production and transportation.
Environmental Factors and Recycling
Recycling glass is much simpler than recycling plastic. Nearly every piece of glass you see contains a part of a recycled substance.
Though it is possible to recycle most plastic, it deteriorates with each cycle. That means it’s mainly used for other purposes – like synthesizing clothes – and not manufacturing new bottles.
Although glass is 100% recyclable, some facilities opt to smash it and use it as a landfill shield, so only around 33% of glass in the United States gets recycled. It is less expensive than recycling the glass or seeking some cover for landfills. It could take a million years for a glass bottle to disintegrate, perhaps more if it is in a landfill area. Due to the length of the glass’s life cycle and the lack of chemicals, it is easier to re-use it until it’s recycled.
Plastic’s impact on the environment is hard to deny. It doesn’t help that the facilities that make plastic use fossil fuels and contain carbon, but it does require less energy to complete the process. Another issue is that only about 10% of plastic is recycled, which adds to the pollution problem.
Glass is non-toxic, contains no dangerous additives, and does not affect your health in any way. It has a lower porosity than plastic. It also has a high tolerance to dissolving into your product, even when it’s kept in a sealed container for an extended period.
Plastics are infamous for their toxicity and predisposition to accumulate substances. The plastic can infiltrate the harmful chemicals in its content if it is misused. Improper or harsh storage conditions can accelerate this process. Take additional steps to make sure your plastic container is appropriate for your product and its intended use.
As you can see, there is no correct answer to this dilemma. Glass and plastic packaging are both excellent choices, but they each have their weak points to note, so it all comes down to a final product. Your product and your budget will make this decision for you.