Just plain nuts: ‘Is glass excessive packaging?’


Last week Sainsbury’s announced that  it has reduced the packaging on its peanut butter by 83 per cent by replacing the existing glass package with plastic in order to reduce the amount of packaging. Although at first glance this might seem a commendable move to  cut carbon, a closer study of the facts will show that it is misplaced.


Glass is 100% and infinitely recyclable. It can be recycled in a bottle-to-bottle system, with no need for down-cycling and without any loss of quality. One tonne of recycled glass equates to saving 1.2 tonnes of rigin materials, about 30% of energy as well as reducing C02 emissions. Glass also has a strong case on reusability grounds: no other material can be reused up to 40 times. New technologies have enabled the industry to develop containers up to 30% lighter than twenty years ago without compromising their performance or aesthetic characteristics.


Rebecca Cocking, Head of Container Affairs at British Glass, was disappointed to hear the recent news and stated that she had hoped that  spurious claims like this  full of “greenwash” were a thing of the past.


She commented, “It is astonishing that Sainsbury’s has linked this  to excess packaging. Our evidence, and lots of independent consumer research indicates that glass is one of the last materials they would associate with excess packaging.”


She adds: “Sainsbury’s recent move appears to actually go against Courtauld Commitment Phase II. WRAP publicly stated that despite glass being heavy in relation to other packaging materials, its CO2 equivalent was significantly lower, whilst other formats such as plastics were lighter in weight but higher in terms of CO2 equivalent.”


Other benefits of glass are also being missed in the switch to plastic. With 8.3m tonnes of food being wasted every year, glass containers have a vital role to play in ensuring our food stays fresher for longer, as glass is inert with no added chemicals to worry about.


And what about customer choice? According to a survey carried out in September 2010 by the global market research company TNS in 19 European countries, an overwhelming majority (88%) of European consumers prefer glass packaging over other packaging materials to contribute to a healthy lifestyle.  They trust glass to protect nutritional quality of food and drinks, and against any chemicals.  Consumers recognize the health and environmental advantages of glass and they are ready to choose glass as their first option over other packaging materials.


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