While there is a huge range of materials to choose from for food and beverage packaging, plastic and glass are two of the most popular and functional materials used. Over the past few decades, plastic has overtaken glass as the most commonly used food packaging material due to its affordability and versatility. According to a 2021 Food Packaging Forum report, plastic dominates the market share of food contact materials with a 37% stake, while glass took third place with 11%.
But, as a manufacturer, how do you decide which material is best for your product? Several factors need to be considered when choosing glass or plastic as your packaging material, with budget, product type, and intended use being some of the most important.
Plastic is the most common material used for most beverages and foods, especially after the introduction of new plastic resins that are considered safe for packaging food and beverages. All plastic used in food and beverage applications must meet strict regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the plastic resins that meet those requirements include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polycarbonate (PC).
Advantages of using plastic packaging
- Design flexibility
- Faster manufacturing compared to glass
- Longer-shelf life due to high impact resistance
- Stackable containers save space
Disadvantages of using plastic packaging
- Low recyclability
- Leading cause of ocean pollution
- Made using non-renewable energy
- Low melting point
- Absorbs smells and flavors
Glass is another common material for packaging foods and beverages. This is because glass has a non-porous surface, guaranteeing that no harmful chemicals leak into the food or beverage when heat is applied. While plastics are great for storing cold beverages, there are still concerns with the material's health safety risks due to its porous and permeable surface. Glass is a standard in most industries for many years, and not only in food and beverage applications. The pharmaceutical and cosmetic sectors use glass to protect and maintain the efficacy of sensitive creams and drugs.
Advantages of using glass packaging
- Non-porous and impermeable surface
- It can be washed at high temperatures
- Glass products can be reused
- It is 100% recyclable
- Made with natural products
- Aesthetically pleasing
- FDA rates glass as fully safe
- Zero rates of chemical interactions
Disadvantages of using glass packaging
- More expensive than plastic
- Much heavier than plastic
- High-energy consumption
- Rigid and brittle
- Not impact resistant
Whether glass or plastic is a superior material for food and beverage packaging is a constant source of debate, but each material has different strengths. Glass provides greater environmental benefits with its ability to be recycled indefinitely and the fact that it releases zero harmful emissions. However, plastic packaging is ideal for applications in which cost, weight, or space efficiency is a concern. Plastic packaging also offers more design options. The decision ultimately relies on the product’s intended use.
Sustainable Packaging at The Rodon Group
At The Rodon Group, we strive to offer innovative manufacturing solutions, including mold design, high-volume parts, and mold building at highly competitive global prices. Our company is ISO 9001:2015 certified and has manufactured over 39 billion parts over the past 25 years.
To ensure the highest quality for our products, we have a two-step quality inspection, a quality lab, and use quality measurement tools. Rodon is committed to maintaining the ethos of environmental sustainability by offering landfill-free solutions, packing conservation, non-toxic materials, and energy conservation. If you have any questions concerning plastic or glass packaging in food and beverage applications, contact us today for more information or request a quote.