Forget Plastic – Let’s Go Back To Using Glass.

April 9, 2008

Water, soda, juice, milk – they all come in plastic single-use-only bottles, with the majority of them ending up in a landfill rather than a recycling bin. But back in the day (although I am not sure what day, but before my time) they all came in reusable glass bottles that were returned to the manufacturer when you were done with the drink. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to those days? Imagine how much trash we could keep out of the ground!

Beverage makers who are looking forward to the future rather backwards to the past should take it upon themselves to invest in glass bottling facilities…I know for a fact that I would definitely choose their product over other ones in plastic bottles. Sure, it would require an initial investment in facilities and the glass bottles themselves, but imagine the return for both their bottom line and the planet’s resources. Glass can be used over and over again between sterilizations, never ending up in the trash or in a recycling bin. Plus, they can be made from old broken glass, so it’s a win-win.

The only downside I see to this would be the shipping costs associated with a heavier end product…but I have to imagine that we can come up with better transportation options before we can come up with a better alternative to glass instead of plastic. Wouldn’t it be great to get your milk or soda in a nice glass bottle that can then be used again and again, instead of just tossing the container in the trash?

Ah, the good ole days… ;-)

Filed in: Recycling • Tags: ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (19)

  1. heather in PDX says:

    I buy milk in glass bottles at my local food co-op. There’s a $2 deposit on the bottle, so I bring the previous empty with me to cancel out the deposit on the new quart. It’s from a local dairy that also delivers, but the minimum order is a little more than my standard 2 quarts a week…

    http://norisdairy.com/home.html
    http://peoples.coop

  2. Frugal Dad says:

    Amen! Everything tastes better in a real glass anyway. We drink out of glass mason jars left over from some canning we did a few years ago, and I reuse milk jugs for little projects around the house (collecting rainwater to irrigate my square foot garden, etc.).

  3. David says:

    Unfortunately, Ron, the wax is from petroleum – and not recyclable. That’s why recycling centers throw all those cardboard milk containers in the trash – it is a mixed product with paper and wax and they cannot be separated. Sucks, I know…

    However – you remember milk in glass bottles being delivered? That’s cool – I remember seeing it in the store, but not getting it delivered. Maybe you could be a new spokesperson for the movement? ;-)

  4. Man, you’re making me feel old. I actually remember getting milk delivered in glass bottles. (Gulp)

    Of course, we could go back to the old wax covered cardboard cartons too! Those are easily recycled, right?

  5. Jenn says:

    I lived in Eugene for a summer, some time back, and there was a local company making these amazing drinks which they bottled in returnable glass jars. I loved the beverage, and I *loved* the fact that the bottles were reused… not just recycled, which takes way more energy, but just put back into service exactly as they were. So great! More please!

  6. Amanda says:

    Cheers! We use our mason jars for absolutely everything, and even though we haven’t bought pasta sauce in 6 months or so we’re still reusing the jars for storing grains and granola. So useful!

  7. Jamie says:

    They still do that in Europe! All the glass Evian bottles and Coke bottles are sent back to the store and then are reused. You can see the rings around the top of the bottle where it has gone back thru the manufacturing plant to be cleaned, refilled and resealed. And the best thing with glass … if it breaks – burn it back down and start over.

  8. david says:

    I forgot that Jamie – you are so right. I used to go to Europe several times a year and I remember now that everything was in glass. Why is it that Americans just don’t care as much?

  9. Chase says:

    In Mexico they still use glass bottles. At my favorite taqueria, there are Mexican sodas that are in glass bottles that the taqueria expects you to give back. And it’s in the Bay Area for crying out loud!

  10. Veshengro says:

    @David…

    While this may be the case, e.g. everything, basically, in glass bottles in mainland Europe you will, unfortunately not find that here in the UK. On the other hand you can still get milk delivered by the dairies in glass bottles. Do not try to buy it in glass bottles though in the stores.

    David, you are also so right about the wax coating on the cardboard milk containers (and the cardboard coffee take-out cups). People think “oh, cardboard – can be recycled”… erm, sorry, no it can’t. The coffee beakers over here in the UK now are actually lines with a thin plastic film which makes it even worse. Rather then have plastic take out cups..

  11. David says:

    Its about reuse, not recycling. – geez.

  12. Stewart O'Marah says:

    Man, you guys are old. It’s not a glass vs plastic issue; it’s a social issue. If someone doesn’t recyele the plastic bottle, what makes you think they are going to recylce a glass one. Aluminum cans cuerrently has a cash value if recycled, how many of them do you see thrown away or on the roadside. This would just speed up gloabl warming because of the inceased energy usage/demand to create and transport the glass containers, spelling the death of us all! Get real, would you? Gees!

  13. david says:

    Plastic comes from petroleum, and there really isnt anything that can replicate the strength and longevity of it.

  14. Roger says:

    Wht can’t we use a natural wax on the cartons, And wouldn’t it be better for the environment to incinerate said cartons? Couldn’t we find good filters to protect the air from the pollution burning cartons would emit? I mean it would be cleaner than continue use of plastic. How bout a non petroleum hard plastic substitute with a deposit refund?

  15. Jeneva says:

    “It”™s not a glass vs plastic issue; it”™s a social issue. If someone doesn”™t recyele the plastic bottle, what makes you think they are going to recylce a glass one.”

    Except that it IS a glass vs plastic issue, because of all the non-recycled plastic that ends up in the environment, never biodegrading and only breaking down into smaller and more toxic pieces of plastic. Glass and metal are better alternatives because they are inert, don’t leach or absorb toxins like plastic does, and don’t float like plastic does. Glass and metal eventually break down, by weathering and rusting, into mostly sand and iron molecules. Plastic never does — nearly every bit of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still in existence today, and will be for thousands of years into the future, absorbing and transporting persistent organic pollutants everywhere it travels.

    Even if nobody EVER recycled their glass bottles or returned them for refilling (which is unlikely — even those thrown away by people who don’t care will often be picked up by people who want the refund or recycling money, there’s practically a cottage industry in it), they would still at least not end up floating in a Texas-sized patch of garbage in the middle of the ocean, being eaten by and poisoning/shredding from the inside all varieties of sea life, the way that plastic does in the Pacific Garbage Patch.

  16. Christine says:

    The usual argument I hear against your excellent idea is that it will be more expensive to transport glass than plastic in trucks.

    Which brings me to the next question–why aren’t we using freight trains to transport all this stuff, instead of trucks?

  17. EarthyChick6 says:

    Bioplastic don’t come from petroleum check out the world centric website; they have biodegradable plastics that are sugar cane based. Then there is hemp oil (but that is illegal) that can be made in to strong plastic that also biodegrades … how many years does a plastic grocery bag or soda bottle need to be here anyway?

    RE: Comment by david on 10 March 2009:

    Plastic comes from petroleum, and there really isnt anything that can replicate the strength and longevity of it.

    • david says:

      Most don’t fully biodegrade 100% (nothing does, really). Degrade, yes. But biodegrade, not normally and not all the time. A lot of these “bioplastics” bother me though because A. we are now using food to package things in, when millions go hungry every day and B. we need to focus on reducing all packaging rather than just reformulating it. I suppose it’s better than regular plastic, but I do have my concerns.

  18. wendy says:

    Soda, milk etc. all taste better from a glass bottle. The product also does not go flat so quickly, and stays fresh longer. I am sick to death of buying soda in the plastic bottle only to have it go flat before it is used. Usually goes flat within 1 day. I may start returning my unused flat soda to the store and demand a refund. Maybe then someone will get the picture.