Let’s Talk Trash: Aluminum versus glass versus plastic single-use plastic debate

Despite the deluges of June-uary, there are no doubt moments when you’re out and about and thirsty. You hit up the nearest store for a beverage and are struck with the aluminum versus glass versus plastic packaging dilemma. As if you didn’t already have enough to fill your mind with these days, now this debate awakens.

A strange game of chess unfurls and you argue for each of the three players as they make their moves to checkmate. Spoiler alert: We all know the game is really a distraction from the obvious winner since time immemorial – the reusable, refillable bottle – or even the cupped-hand-under-fountain-method. But let’s indulge for a few more moments in the classic question: Which single-use packaging has the smallest impact on global resources?

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These days single-use plastic is getting justifiable notoriety for its overall badness. Floating in waterways, washing up on shorelines, containing BPA or other plastic softeners all make headlines along with polluting oil extraction methods and the downcycling (as opposed to recycling) of bottles that go to a processor. Despite being conveniently light and not easily breakable, plastic should still be our last option for packaging.

Glass can be recycled without end, but requires a lot of energy input to melt, and coloured bottles can contain controversial ingredients such as cobalt. Reusing glass bottles like the beer industry sometimes does, however, is a fantastically smart use of this material. The lack of bottle-washing facilities makes this tough for smaller towns and businesses such as our local brewer, however. Still, glass is number two on the list.

Aluminum is easily recycled back into itself with little energy input and is lightweight and not easily breakable. Bauxite is needed to produce aluminum though, and it can pollute waterways and create habitat destruction, so that’s not the best. Still, it is likely the best option for single-use beverage packaging.

All that said, bringing our own refillable bottle is the most sane, cheap and clearly the classiest choice. We have survived for millennia without single-use beverage containers, and can no doubt thrive without them still, especially when it comes to getting the water we need to sustain wellness.

Support companies that allow for the refilling of their containers where you can, and try on the habit of always having a few refillable bottles nearby.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email info@LetsTalkTrash.ca or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.

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