If you really want to reduce waste – choose glass as your packaging. The most compelling reason to use glass is the non-reactive or inert properties it exhibits. This characteristic of glass allows for more sustainable options than any other material, which often makes glass a better packaging choice for the food & beverage and personal care industry.
Quality glass will neither leach chemicals into the product it holds nor will it absorb odors or elements of that which it holds. This not only makes for a safer container for your initial product, but allows for greater use after the contents are consumed.
“Glass is 100% recyclable,” says Robert Weisenburger Lipetz, executive director of the Glass Manufacturing Industry Council (GMIC), a nonprofit trade association. “It has an unlimited life and can be melted and recycled endlessly to make new glass products with no loss in quality,” he adds. (See C&EN’s article for more.)
Reduce waste – choose glass… but is it that simple? Recent studies show that although glass is arguably the most fully recyclable packaging product, on average about 70% of glass still eventually heads to the landfill.
This is partly due to the limits in the trend of single-stream recycling and partly due to poor handling & recycling practices. Some states have ceased their glass recycling altogether, which has prompted privately held businesses to begin tackling the problem. You see, it isn’t just about keeping it from the landfill, it’s also about getting that cullet back to glass manufacturing plants for use in new glass.
Messaging and communication is a powerful tool. Use it! You are reducing waste by choosing glass, let your customers know why you chose glass…and what other measures you are taking to implement sustainable practices into your operations. Encourage your customers to find ways to reuse or repurpose the glassware. If your municipality only offers single-stream recycling for residents, see if there are other options on the commercial side.
Offering a glass return program for your customers can be quite fantastic as a concept, but the implementation is another story. Before you make up your mind, on whether you can offer a refill or re-use program with your glass containers, do not assume that your customers will require a financial incentive to follow through.
The bar is set high on what is required to re-use glass when it comes to foods and beverages. Confirm which regulations are in place relevant to your sector of the industry. Will your product/process will allow it. What method of cleaning is required? Are you able to comply with those requirements at your facility? Is it worth the time ($$) to manage the receiving and proper cleaning/prepping of the ware?
Today’s consumers continue to prove that doing the right thing does not always result in immediate payback. In most cases, the cost to manage these programs simply does not fiscally support offering a rebate. If this is a viable option for you, it is likely the result of customer requests…and it will be natural to promote the program in the light of your customers and your company adopting another way to be more environmentally conscious.
We know of a local company whose customers bring back their jars even when they know that the company cannot reuse them in their business. Why? They found out that the family who runs the business was able to use them in their home canning. Depending on the specifics of the ware you are using, there can be many outlets for that glassware, even if you cannot reuse it for the same purpose in your business.
Glass Re-purposing Centers are popping up in larger cities, as a response to the incredible amount of glass from the restaurant & bar industry. It is an opportunity to be creative with existing glass while keeping more glass out of the landfill.
Several individuals and businesses have taken on this challenge in an amazing way. They make it incredibly easy for private citizens and businesses alike to take control of their glass recycling and make an impact. We will update this list as quickly as we can! Is there a similar initiative in your community? If there is, please put their link in the comments so we can add them!
Are you hosting a large event and anticipate lots of empty bottles? Perhaps you’re organizing a regular collection day for your workplace or neighborhood. In any case, you can schedule a time to drop off your empty bottles. You can sign up to have repeat pickup (for a monthly fee) and put your rinsed bottles in a crate provided by them.