More For the Conversation on Cans and Bottles.

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More For the Conversation on Cans and Bottles.

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#Sustainability Blog Post: The sustainability of cans and bottles http://3bl.me/x842bk via @newbelgium #recycling #environment

Summary

As a craft brewer who fills both glass bottles and aluminum cans with delicious beers, we inevitably receive questions (and have our own) regarding the environmental impact of each container. In this blog post, we share what we’ve learned around the sustainability of cans and bottles.

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 2:05pm

CONTENT: Blog

As a craft brewer who fills both glass bottles and aluminum cans with delicious beers, we inevitably receive questions (and have our own) regarding the environmental impact of each container. A comprehensive, unbiased study comparing the total environmental impact of glass bottles to that of aluminum cans does not exist. So we see a lot of guessing going on out there and many of those guesses are being stated as though they were ultimate facts.

Below are some questions we hear often along with answers based on the research we’ve done. Remember, though, that since a comprehensive study has never been conducted, we don’t really know which container is ultimately environmentally superior.

 

Which container is sustainable?

Neither! Both containers have a net negative impact on the environment.

 

Okay, well which container comes closest to being sustainable?

With the data we have reviewed, no clear winner.

The beginning of the lifecycle of the aluminum can (mining of bauxite, smelting of aluminum) has a larger impact than glass. But later in their lifecycles, the glass bottle has the larger impact (heavier to transport and more difficult to recycle). At the end of the day it’s possible they even out.

The best container is the one that ends up in the recycling bin.

  • Both aluminum and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times and doing so has many benefits:
  • Reducing impact from mining virgin material (The mining of bauxite for aluminum is highly toxic to the land due to the chemicals used in the process. The mining of the materials needed to make glass is also destructive, but less so).
  • Reducing energy required to melt virgin material (melting recycled material requires less heat: Recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy and recycled glass uses 30% less energy.)
  • Improving the U.S. economy
  • Americans landfill $2 billion worth of aluminum every year!
  • Create more jobs (recycling offers jobs in the U.S. while mining occurs outside the U.S.)

 

But I thought cans are more sustainable because they are lighter to ship?

It is true that the transportation of cans, since being lighter and stacking better, requires less fuel and is therefore more ecofriendly than the transportation of bottles. However, this is only one little segment of the entire lifecycle of the container and not enough info to make a verdict. It would be like saying, “Well, I got an ‘A’ in my freshman history class, so that means I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA.” We wish! But remember, we also had calculus classes and biochemistry and perhaps the occasional hangover, and so most of us didn’t achieve A’s throughout the lifecycle of our college career. Just like our GPA depends on several steps throughout our college life, the sustainability of one container or another depends on the many steps throughout its own lifecycle (from mining all the way to disposal).

Click here to continue reading about the environmental impact of containers on New Belgium's Sustainability Blog.

Keywords: Environment | Beverage Containers | New Belgium Brewing | Plastic | Recycling | aluminum | environment | environmental impact | glass

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