Glass vs Plastic Bottles

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You may notice that a vast majority of Metabolic Maintenance products arrive in amber glass bottles. This is different than the plastic containers more commonly used by our colleagues and competitors in the nutritional supplement industry. Although we agree that amber glass is beautiful, this choice is not purely cosmetic. Here we will explain a few of the reasons Metabolic Maintenance is proud to choose glass vs plastic whenever possible. This choice is important, even when it means sacrificing some convenience and cost on our end.

Are glass bottles better for your health?

Manufacturers make plastic bottles from a variety of different chemicals. Some of which are endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. Ordinary storage factors like heat and time can cause leaching of these chemicals into the stored product. This means that when you consume what’s inside the bottle, you consume a little bit of the bottle along too. Some of these chemicals haven’t been around long enough, or haven’t been tested thoroughly enough for us to know the long-term consequences of ingestion, but for some of these chemicals, we know that ingestion is related to negative effects on the brain, interference with hormones and the health of our reproductive systems, and can even have carcinogenic properties, contributing to cancer development [1-4]. 

On the other hand, glass is nonporous and impermeable, meaning it does not chemically interact with, or leach into the products kept inside [5]. This maintains the taste and aroma of the stored products, but also protects their integrity and strength during storage. It protects your body from ingesting anything that isn’t part of the supposed formula.

Why amber glass vs plastic?

There are some supplement ingredients and nutrients that are light-sensitive. This means that they are more likely to change or degrade when exposed to UV rays. Opaque plastic containers can protect supplements from the light. However, the potential drawbacks to ingesting products stored in plastic make this a less attractive option.

Although glass is transparent, adding color can help protect contents from UV rays. While green tint adds some protection and cobalt blue is more protective, it is amber glass that adds the highest level of UV protection to your container while still allowing you to see what’s left inside [6].

Is glass better for the environment?

This is probably the most important argument for choosing glass over plastic. While both glass and some plastics are technically “recyclable”, glass bottles can be recycled back into new glass bottles. This process can repeat endlessly without degrading or losing integrity, while plastics cannot. With plastic, you can really only “downcycle” from bottles and containers into a few materials like carpet padding or plastic lumber. Once these products become waste, they cannot be recycled again.

On top of that, the US used to send the bulk of our plastic recyclables to China for processing. But, China has stopped taking most US shipments of waste like this. So, much more plastic is ending up in US landfills, without much hope of being recycled in the future. 

It has been estimated that only about 9% of plastic ends up getting recycled, and again, it’s not true recycling, but downcycling, and every plastic container, package, or bottle we buy is always brand new [5]. Glass recycling rates in the US are a little better. Approximately 33% of glass is actually recycled, and there is potential for more positive change. Other countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, have glass recycling rates as high as 90% because glass is a truly recyclable material [5]. 

Environmental Issues Outside Recycling

One problem with the constant manufacturing of new plastics is the environmental destruction that accompanies drilling for the petroleum for plastic products. Drilling for oil can result in oil spills. Famously, oil spills contaminate surrounding soils and water, can cause horrendous fires and explosions. They leave irreparable damage to the ecosystems drilled through, let alone the health of the people that inhabit those areas. 

Then there is the carbon footprint of manufacturing plastic. Not only do plastic products themselves emit CO2, (the emissions from plastic in 2015 were equivalent to nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2), but the factories that are used to create plastic are also likely to run on fossil fuels and produce emissions [5]. 

First, we worry about toxic chemicals from plastic containers leaching into our food, drinks, and supplements. However, a greater, later concern is the fact that plastic products (very slowly) degrade in landfills or wherever they land. As they degrade, those same toxic chemicals are leached into the environment as microplastics, which pollute our waterways, soil, and the air we breathe [5]. Even if glass doesn’t make it into recycling, it will never leach toxic chemicals into the soil, water, or air.

As a non-degrading material, glass containers are often better for repurposing around the house too, before you recycle them. Even small vitamin bottles can fulfill another purpose when empty. Try using them as travel-sized containers for beauty products in your carry on luggage. Or, as a bud vase in the window sill for a vintage look.

Are there better options than plastic and glass?

As modern culture becomes more environmentally and health-conscious, we are making great strides in packaging materials that respect these changing values. At Metabolic Maintenance, we are doing our best to stay abreast of possible packaging options for the future, while continuing to fulfill the needs of our customers with the consistency they trust. We currently package as many products as possible in glass. When you open a shipment from us, you will notice any padding is biodegradable packaging materials, never Styrofoam. We will continue to do our best to support you, your health, and the health of our Earth as our company grows and evolves with our changing culture.

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References:

  1. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/jul/bpa-mammary-glands.
  2. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-exposure-linked-to-prostate-cancer/.
  3. http://web.archive.org/web/20100524160032/http://www.oehha.org/prop65/prop65_list/files/P65single040210.pdf
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-10813-0
  5. https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/which-is-better-for-the-environment-glass-or-plastic
  6. https://www.airseacontainers.com/blog/the-science-behind-amber-glass-how-these-bottles-protect-liquids/