A study recently warned, manufacturing of glass bottles is very energy- and resource-intensive, that such a process is making the products four times worse for the environment compared to plastic bottles.
Specifically, Southampton researchers examined the effect of different types of beverage packaging, including both glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and milk cartons.
As a result, scientists concluded that plastic bottles are undoubtedly bad for the environment, as their production requires substantial amounts of energy.
Moreover, according to reports on the issue, they are "long-lasting" following disposal and have the possibility of breaking down and spreading microplastics, which are believed to be dangerous to health.
Worse Impact of Glass Bottles
In their research, the study investigators concluded that the total impact of glass bottles is worse once their energy footprint and the "damage of their resource mining is taken into account."
Moreover, the study also specified that nowadays, glass bottles are all too frequently discarded after they're used once even though they have the potential of being reusable from 12 to 20 times.
The researchers also found that the most environment-friendly beverage containers were "milk and juice-style cartons, as well as 100 percent aluminum cans.
According to the University of Southampton's environmental scientist and paper author Alice Brock, "A massive amount of energy" is required to heat the raw materials in making glass.
During the raw materials' melting for glass, Brock added, gas pollutants can be emitted like Sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.
In addition, the study author explained, since glass needs materials like silica sand, dolomite, and soda ash to be mined for its manufacturing, "this has all the environmental impacts linked to mining."
Such impacts, Brock continued, include the degradation of the land, the release of dust, and the danger of mining runoff that pollutes water sources.
Effect of Mining of Silica
As indicated in the research, the mining of silica can lead to "silicosis," an occupational health condition in which the inhalation of crystalline silica dust results in inflammation and the lung tissue's scarring. It is also a permanent illness without any cure.
According to the study investigators, "around a firth of the raw materials" going into glass manufacturing are lost as greenhouse effect-inducing carbon dioxide, as well as other gases.
As a result of this research, which was published in Detritus journal, glass was found to have outweighed plastic in its adverse contribution to "climate change, freshwater and toxicity, ocean acidification," and the so-called freshwater eutrophication.
Freshwater eutrophication is known as the phenomenon when waters rich in nutrients induce dangerous levels of "algal growth."
Commenting on their findings, Dr. Brock said she thinks the implications of the study are, and there really is a need to move to reuse bottles and cans. "Recycling is not enough," she elaborated.
The study author also said there is a need to change people's mindset and move to things such as "refilling bottles, bottle return approaches and the like," if such environmental impacts are to be cut.
Lastly, while cartons were found to be less dangerous to the environment, in general, than both plastic and glass bottles, they still have plastic components.
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