Glass Packaging is a Vital Climate Action Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 7, 2019
NoreenByLine-a by Noreen Wise

Glass packaging is an immediate climate action initiative we can run with ASAP.  Eliminating as much plastic as possible from the environment is on everyone’s ST-SAGA-CovFrnt-72-300agenda. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of France, is nearly pure plastic and threatens ocean health. It’s hard to believe that as recently as, fifty years ago, the majority of US food packaging was glass, including everyday milk.

Plastic has several obvious benefits that resulted in consumer good manufacturers transitioning to plastic packaging when it was introduced to the marketplace back in the 70’s. Lightweight, squeezable, and durable. Plastic doesn’t shatter when dropped the way glass can.

But the plastic negatives are life-threatening and must be factored into decision making. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), plastics are “produced from natural gas, natural gas processing, and crude oil refining.” Thus, plastics contains numerous chemicals that are carcinogens as well as the source of other serious human health hazards that can leach into food and impact health. Not only does plastic packaging increase cancer risk, it also impacts our body’s ability to regulate itself by disrupting our hormones and our body’s chemical pathways. Additionally, plastics imperil the well-being of our oceans and the food supply living in the deep blue seas. In fact, whenever we eat fish, we consume microscopic amounts of plastic.

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Climate and health focused consumers are sounding the battle cry to eliminate the scourge of plastic packaging from our lives, and thus save humanity. A very powerful alarm… and force. It’s the witching hour, with no time for delay.

On this note, as we begin to boldly transition back to glass packaging, the Glass Packaging Institute is a wealth of information and a critical resource for manufacturers making key decisions. Whatever the difference in cost may be, it’s clear that consumers have already made the decision that we’re willing to pay a few cents more for glass packaging. Yet, companies did receive a significant tax break at the end of 2017, so they should be able to cover the cost increase on their own, especially now that many consumers are choosing products based on how they are packaged.

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The Glass Packaging Institute website provides valuable information, that every savvy consumer will want to know when making a decision about what to buy based on how it’s packaged as we struggle to save the planet, our climate and our health.

GPI:

  • Glass is made from natural domestic materials such as sand, cullet, soda ash, and limestone
  • Glass is impermeable and nonporous so there’s no leaching of chemicals into our food supply
  • Glass is 100% recyclable
  • 80% of recycled glass is used in new glass products
  • Communities are beginning to set up large glass recycling bins, rather than use curbside service, so glass can be that much more easily recycled at its purest form (curbside often results in shreds of cardboard being mixed with the glass when recycled)
  • Glass packaging can also be recycled endlessly with no loss to purity
  • GPI has a new president, Scott DeFife, who will be developing and sharpening GPI’s focus on “marketing, advocacy, and sustainability” for the glass container manufacturing industry. Best of luck, Mr. DeFife… you have a huge #ClimateAction fan club that will be keeping track of and sharing your successes.

On a personal note, I was excited to discover over the weekend, that the barbecue sauce aisle in my local grocery store displayed products on shelves based on packaging. The TOP 5 shelves were all the glass bottles of barbecue sauce. And the bottom two shelves, which were so close to the ground you wouldn’t actually stoop unless you were forced to, were the plastic bottles of barbecue sauce. Imagine if every grocery store did the same… we’d have this particular climate action initiative humming along in record time. Interestingly, two of the plastic bottle brands clinging to the bottom were the biggest brand names: Heinz and Kraft. We clearly need to alert these two consumer brands about our consumer expectations.

Let’s FIX this, fast & furious!

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