Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Which is Better: Glass, Plastic, or Paper?

In celebrating Earth day I thought this post will make us become a little more conscious when trowing away various packages. Compare the eco-impact of different packaging materials using this chart. For perspective: The average U.S. home burns 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy and produces 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide through electricity use per year.

MaterialEnergy cost to produce $1,000 worthGreenhouse gases producedAmount recovered in 2007Landfill lifespanAlternatives
Glass containers6,944 kilowatt hours3,527 lbs.28%1 million yearsAlways recycle glass — otherwise your great- great-great grandkids might find a bottle you threw away.
Plastic containers (#1, #2, #5)3,889 kilowatt hours2,425 lbs.14%450 yearsReduce use of throwaways, and try to buy easily recyclable #1 and #2 plastics.
Plastic bags and film3,611 kilowatt hours2,270 lbs.10%500-1,000 yearsUse canvas grocery bags; wrap sandwiches in napkins.
Polystyrene foam peanuts3,333 kilowatt hours2,078 lbs.7%500 yearsCushion
fragile shipments with crumpled newspapers or magazines. Drop off
excess foam packaging peanuts at your local FedEx or UPS store.
Coated and uncoated paper bags3,889 kilowatt hours2,381 lbs.37%1 monthSwitch to reusable canvas bags, and always recycle paper bags.
Coated and laminated paper, including gift wrap, tissue, and butcher paper3,611 kilowatt hours2,151 lbs.Negligible2-5 monthsWrap gifts in newspaper comics pages or reusable fabric wraps.
Corrugated cardboard4,444 kilowatt hours2,645 lbs.74%1-2 monthsBuy packaging-free products. Reuse cardboard boxes and compost shredded cardboard.
Steel and aluminum cans, boxes, and other containers4,722 kilowatt hours3,262 lbs.54%

200-400 years

Fill reusable container at the bulk bins, and always recycle steel and aluminum containers.

Source: Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA), eiolca.net/copyright/index.html.


GreenLantern said...

Excellent information - there’s a lot of doubt surrounding which methods/products are truly sustainable and which are just green washing. Check out our myth-busting video “What’s Your Big Green Lie?!” which gives a taste of the widespread ignorance of green issues including cloth versus disposable diapers at http://www.biggreenlies.com.

Anonymous said...

You spoke of how awful it would be for our great great grandchildren to find our unrecycled glass bottles. Did you consider that today we are thrilled to find our great great grandparent's unrecycled bottles?

Cindy Nei

Lucia said...


you are right. Can you imagine also when our great grandchildren will find not only our unrecycled bottles bot those of our great grandparents too!

Coral said...

Wow, it's great to have the facts laid out like that, thank you for this most informational post! My personal favourite alternative to plastic bags are Carebags, 100% reusable bulk food and produce bags. I love them because not only are longlasting, strong, and extremely versatile, you can buy, wash, and store your produce with this one bag! I've found it eliminates the both my plastic and vegetable waste, since my veggies stay fresh for so much longer.

Amelie said...

Very good information. We just launched a new brand of plastic trash bags made from 100% recycled plastic and that are oxodegradble and recyclable: EconoGreen Plastics. This is a greener alternative to traditional plastic trash bags. Plus, they are as strong as standard plastic bags and they’re priced in the same range.

We are currently developing a new website for this product that should be live this week and should provide you with extensive information on the products. Meanwhile, I can send you samples for you to test as well as more information on the products.

Would you be interested in receiving them?