Consider the alternatives to plastic bottles and, perhaps, glass springs to mind. Glass is more recyclable, but is the carbon footprint of a glass bottle any better than a plastic bottle?
According to The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 80% of recycled glass can be reclaimed and recycled glass uses 40% less energy than manufacturing new glass. However, these statistics are about glass recycling and unless glass is recycled, it can be argued that the carbon, or ecological footprint of single-use glass is actually larger than plastic.
Reusing a glass bottle three times lowers its carbon footprint to that of a single-use plastic bottle. If the plastic bottle gets recycled however, the glass bottle must then be reused 20 times to make their carbon footprint the same.
This can be attributed to the fact that plastic bottles are lighter and so require less energy and emissions to transport. On the downside plastic bottles are made from fossil fuels and can leach chemicals – and are rarely recycled into new liquid containers but instead down-cycled into other plastic goods.
Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about reusing and recycling glass and plastic bottles as glass bottles in the landfill are problematic too.
In terms of our practice in decreasing both our carbon footprint and our plastic footprint, it is clear that the solution may not be found in new materials in all cases. For access to drinks on the move, carrying a reusable water bottle is key.
Cross-curricular | Ages 7-11
This free unit for primary school (ages 7-11, Key Stage 2) introduces students to the issue of plastic pollution and inspires them to enact change in their communities.