Glass vs Plastic: 7 Factors to Consider for Packaging your Product

Glass vs Plastic, Which is Better?

If it takes 7 seconds to form a first impression of a stranger, it takes a fraction of that for a consumer to evaluate your product among others on the shelf. A customer might not try your product before making their decision and instead judge the book by its cover, or in this case the product by its container. Material plays a large role in this. Glass and plastic containers make up the vast majority of bottles, jars and jugs on the shelves and we’ve listed 7 key factors to consider to help you decide: Which is better, glass vs plastic?

1. Perceived Quality Between Glass vs Plastic

Consumers perceive a difference of quality in glass vs plastic. A 2015 study found that participants believed food products packaged in glass had a higher level of pleasantness than the same product stored in plastic. As it tends to be more expensive, glass offers a premium experience in look, feel and weight that can be essential for luxury fruit juices, craft cold brew or other products that want to promote a sophisticated image for marketing.

On the other hand, glass breaks. Plastic offers durability and ease of use. It could be dangerous if you gave a child or baby a glass bottle that he/she could easily drop. Plastic tends to be less slippery than glass, and it can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes such as a neck with ergonomic finger molds for better grip and easy handling.

2. Difference in Characteristics & Chemical Compatibility

Glass offers inertness and impermeability ideal for sensitive products in the pharmaceutical or personal care industries as well as liquids that store for long periods of time such as spirits and other alcoholic beverages. It is less permeable to CO2 and O2 than plastic, keeping fizzy products bubbly longer. Able to handle a wide range of temperatures, glass will not warp under pasteurization.

Plastic is versatile. It comes in many varieties like polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP) and more. Each of these types of plastic has its own chemical compatibility properties, temperature rating, impact resistance, etc. With so many options, it’s likely you can find a plastic container suited for your product and use.

3. Shipping Glass vs Plastic in Bulk

Glass vs Plastic Weight Shipping Cost

Shipping glass can become expensive fast. This is because glass is typically more fragile and heavier than plastic, leading to higher freight costs. A plastic 2 fl. oz bottle may weigh only .023 lbs. while its glass counterpart weighs .177 lbs. This seems like a small difference when comparing a single bottle but when ordering pallets in bulk, it can add up to large figures that impact your profit margin. Additionally, even with extreme care in shipping, some glass bottles might break during handling.

Plastic, on the other hand, is lightweight and durable, making it much more suitable for transportation than glass. It requires less gas and oil than glass to transport, expending less energy and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. If you need to ship your container long distances, plastic stands as the economic and often eco-friendly option.

4. Which Costs More, Glass or Plastic?

Not only is glass more expensive to ship, it also costs more to produce primarily due to the amount of heat required during production. Glass manufacturing is energy-intensive accounting for 1% of total industrial energy use in an Energy Information Administration (EIA) survey of the manufacturing sector. Natural gas fuels most of this energy.

The melting point of plastic is much lower than glass, requiring less energy during production. With new technology developments in plastic molding, manufacturing plastic containers has become even more affordable. At one point, producing new plastic was even cheaper than recycling it. Economically, plastic exceeds glass in terms of both production and shipping.

5. Environmental Factors & Recycling

Although glass may take more energy to produce and ship, it is 100% recyclable meaning that each time glass is recycled, the resulting product has no loss of quality. Glass can also be reused as it can be washed and sterilized. Most plastic can be recycled, but it can degrade with each cycle. This means that when you recycle a plastic bottle, it typically is not used to make another bottle and instead is used for synthetic clothing or carpets. This process is often called “downcycling.”

The environmental effects of glass and plastic are not clear cut. Glass makes up 5% of the garbage in the U.S, meaning that even though it is recyclable it often finds its way to the landfill anyway. Producing a single-use glass vs plastic container has a larger environmental impact due to the energy required. However, even though glass is long-lasting it is made from natural material. While plastic is relatively new compared to glass, plastic makes up 20% of garbage in landfills.

History of Plastic Bottles Timeline

6. Does Glass vs Plastic Impact my Health?

Glass is non-toxic, free from potentially harmful chemicals and generally not associated with a negative impact to your health. It is less porous than plastic. It also has a high resistance to leeching into your product even when contained for long periods of time. Organic or all-natural products may want to consider glass products as public knowledge increases of bisphenol A (BPA) and other potentially hazardous chemicals in plastics.

However, most plastics do not contain BPA. Plastic gets a bad reputation for its toxicity and tendency to leech into products. When used incorrectly, plastics can leech possibly harmful chemicals into your product. Improper or extreme storage conditions can accelerate this process. Taking precautions to ensure that your plastic container suits your product and its use can ensure that using plastic is a safe alternative to glass.

7. What’s Going Inside & How it will Be Used

A large determining factor between glass and plastic is what works best for your product. If it’s a spirited beverage or a liquid where keeping carbonation is essential, glass might work best for you. Thick substances such as shampoos and lotions often fit a plastic bottle you can squeeze to dispense. Glass vs plastic might help your all-natural beverage sell better, but a product that a child or baby handles might be ideal in plastic.

Pros and Cons of Glass vs Plastic

So what’s the bottom line? Which is better, glass vs plastic? Only you know will work for you! Find out more about packaging and containers, as well as lids, caps and closures to go along with them here at The Cary Company.