There are a lot of factors that play into the environmental impact of these two different materials. Every material we use affects the environment through habitat disruption or destruction when we mine, dig, or harvest the raw materials. Each material requires energy to be processed and transported to manufacturing centres — and once recycled, they travel varied distances (again) to be re-processed, and different amounts of each material can ultimately be recovered through the process. Each material has a different economic incentive (from scratch, and specific to recycling), and generates different total greenhouse gas emissions. All of these factors intertwine to create the products’ total environmental impact, which makes them difficult to compare. So, there may be no single “right” answer, but below you’ll find facts to help you to make your choice.
- At the beginning of aluminium’s life cycle, it exists as a group of aluminium oxides called bauxite (occurs only in several parts of the world: Australia, Africa, South America and some in Europe). It must be mined, shipped to a refinery where materials are separated to isolate alumina, smelted to covert the refined alumina into aluminium, and then fabricated into bottles, cans and other type of containers. The global production of aluminium consumes more than 3% of the world’s electrical supply.
- Aluminium bottles are lightweight — so they have a smaller transportation footprint. And because they stack tightly, there's less wasted space when they're shipped.
- Aluminium keeps out UV light, which can degrade the product, leading to waste.
- To date, aluminium is the most recycled material in the world — 70% of aluminium containers are recycled in comparison to just 34% for glass containers. The cost of which is substantially cheaper to produce than its virgin counter part. In comparison, making a container out of recycled aluminium requires only 8% of the energy consumed by producing new aluminium.
- Energy savings that accumulate when you recycle a ton of aluminium are far greater than they are for glass—96% vs. a mere 26.5%.
- As for the aluminium that wind up in a landfill, they can take up to 500 years to decompose, which maybe isn’t so bad considering that’s at least 2000 times shorter than it takes for glass to decompose. And most of the aluminium cans and bottles get picked up by do-gooders and profiteers thanks to the 5-cent-deposits for returned cans.
- Aluminium bottles and cans are unbreakable, but can dent.
- Glass, as opposed to aluminium, is made from the more easily accessible silica.
- Glass bottles take over a million years to decompose. But the silver lining is that — should the glass not get recycled — they are inert in landfills, meaning they won’t leach harmful chemicals like plastics.
- 100% of glass bottles are recyclable, and can be recycled endlessly without any degradation of quality. This means in addition to their ability to be recycled on an industrial level again and again, you can personally reuse glass. One key downside of glass recycling is that used glass is often shipped long distances from local recycling companies to glass recycling plants, adding to their ultimate GHG emissions. And unfortunately, recycling glass is also economically unfeasible in some areas, as issues with quality and the need for special equipment drive up both cost and energy consumption.
- There's a weaker demand for the glass that does end up in the recycling bags. While automakers and other manufacturers crave aluminium, 90% of recycled glass simply ends up going back into bottles and similar containers.
- Adding recycled glass to the mix means manufacturers' furnaces can run at lower temperatures. And for every six tons of recycled glass used, the carbon dioxide emissions drop a ton.
- It's heavy, so transportation is environmentally expensive.
- And, yes, glass breaks. So you might get some waste there.
As you can see both aluminium and glass have their cons and pros, whatever the container, the overriding message is to recycle it!
For HERBOWSKI the choice to use aluminium bottles was primary based on it's light weight that reduces shipping costs, unbreakable material which means no waste, and complete protection from UV light that assures the quality of our oils.
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below :)