Which is Greener: Cans or Bottles?

by energyproviderstexascomenergyn in Uncategorized

Consumers have been demanding greener products for years, and companies have responded. Still, for the conscientious consumer, the choice can be difficult sometimes. When it comes to the argument of bottles versus cans, there is a good deal to consider. Which is more costly to transport? Which contains more recyclable material? Which leaves behind the biggest footprint during its initial manufacturing? In general, which is the right choice when you want to be as green as possible?

Transportation

When it comes to the transportation footprint, cans win out over bottles. They are significantly lighter, so all other things being equal, cans are the clear winner.

However, this metric is less straightforward than it seems. For example, a local brewery using glass bottles may not be transporting its material very far at all. In a choice between a locally-brewed beverage in a glass bottle versus one from far away in a can, the glass bottle might be the better choice.

Recycling

Both cans and bottles can be recycled over and over again, but cans have more recyclable content than bottles and it takes less energy to make a recycled can. Once again, all things being equal, cans win out over glass here.

Manufacturing

There is one factor that complicates the conclusion that cans are better than bottles. At the outset, the manufacture of aluminum cans is extremely damaging to the environment. The manufacture of glass requires silica while the manufacture of aluminum requires bauxite. Bauxite mining is so damaging to the environment that some experts suggest any later gains from lighter, more recyclable cans are lost. By contrast, silica is easy to obtain, and the manufacture of glass creates much less of a negative environmental impact.

While cans may initially seem the greener option, the damaging effects of bauxite mining may cancel any gains from the lighter transportation load and the higher recycled content offered by aluminum cans. Glass may therefore be the better default green choice.

Experts struggle to definitively name one or the other as the greenest solution because so many variables are involved. As an individual making a choice between a few cans or bottles at any given time, you can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.