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What are the dominating materials in moving towards a plastic-free future?

4 October 2018
Tags: glass bottles, glass jars, packaging

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Plastic is frequently making headlines today – and rarely for good reasons. From its lack of recyclability to the damage it is doing to the natural world, most of us are now fully aware that plastic is not the ideal material to be buying or using. However, what are the alternatives? If we’re looking at moving towards a plastic-free future then what kind of materials are going to replace it?

Aluminium

Plastic bottles and plastic trays make up a big part of our household waste. Plastic bottles contain everything, from juice through to household cleaning products. And plastic trays have multiple uses, including being one of the main packaging components in ready meals. On average, people in the UK are consuming at least one ready meal every week. We spend £9 million a day on these convenient dining options and Britain is responsible for half of Europe’s ready meal consumption. Which means that we’re also generating a pretty significant volume of plastic rubbish as a result.

One alternative that has been put forward is aluminium. As a material, aluminium has the same recyclable potential as glass and it’s also suitable for (modern) microwave ovens so could easily be used in ready meal packaging. It’s also cost effective for manufacturers who wouldn’t have to pay more to incorporate a more recyclable material into their packaging.

Glass

The only material that is truly 100% recyclable, glass wins on almost every front when it comes to eco credentials. It can be reused again and again without any dip in quality and it won’t affect the taste of its contents even if left in the sun. It has proven to be a great alternative to plastics, which have been found to leach dangerous chemicals, many of which have caused serious injury or illness.

Glass is also a high quality material and is often the choice for products at the upper end of the price scale. As we move into making a plastic-free future a reality, innovation in glass is making it more versatile. Glass materials are now more shatter resistant and lighter, making it appropriate for a much wider range of products.

Biopolymers

There are some uses that manufacturers say plastic will always been essential for given its flexible and malleable qualities. For those situations, Biopolymers are being developed that mimic these key qualities of plastic while also providing a more environmentally friendly option that is sustainable and safely biodegrades. These include liquid wood, which comes from lignin, a waste product created in paper processing, and plant based polymers that originate from sources such as from sugarcane or potato starch.

There is now a real possibility that we could see a plastic-free future sooner rather than later. Although it will require businesses across all industries to get behind a shift away from the use of this material, these viable alternatives show that there are other possibilities that don’t force compromises in terms of performance or cost. Glass remains one of the most eco friendly packaging options around – you can see our range of glass bottles and jars here.



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