Glass vs. Plastic – Which is More Sustainable?

When discussing sustainability and environmental impact, plastic is often reviled as some sort of villainous material that is solely responsible for landfills, emissions, and other forms of waste. While it may be difficult to believe for some, plastic is one of the most sustainable materials in the world, especially for packaging. Various misconceptions about plastic have led many companies and manufacturers to try other materials for packaging and products. While paper and cardboard are widely used for various products, glass has become an increasingly popular material for companies around the world.

Glass is often presented as a sustainable alternative to plastic, especially in today’s climate of “excessive plastic waste”. In reality, this is little more than greenwashing. While glass packaging and other products help companies reduce their plastic waste, it greatly increases their total environmental impact. As a company that is committed to true plastic sustainability, the team at Change Plastic for Good knows that it can be hard to believe that glass is less sustainable than plastic. That’s why we’ve put together some information to compare glass vs. plastic and show which is more sustainable.

Learn how we can make plastic even more sustainable now and in the future.


Glass is often touted as the most environmentally friendly and sustainable option because it never loses its quality and purity no matter how many times it’s recycled. While it’s true that glass can be “endlessly recyclable”, the reality is that only 30% of glass products end up in a recycling facility. The other 70% end up in a landfill where they will stay for thousands of years before even starting to show signs of breaking down. Glass also requires more energy and produces more emissions during the manufacturing process than plastic, further increasing its environmental impact. Finally, glass is less durable than plastic and often breaks during transit, further increasing the potential for waste.

In terms of sustainability, glass is not as sustainable as it appears. Glass requires an ample amount of a specific type of sand to make. This sand is typically harvested from riverbeds and seabeds, disrupting the natural ecosystem by depriving microorganisms of their main food source. While we may have a lot of sand on the planet, we typically use it faster than the planet can replenish it. This will undoubtedly lead to a sand shortage soon if manufacturers continue to ramp up their production of glass products, increasing environmental impact and the risk of flooding and erosion for communities near harvesting sites. While glass is endlessly recyclable and could be perfectly sustainable if every product was properly recycled, it produces too many emissions and requires too many materials to be truly sustainable.


While it’s true that there is an abundance of plastic waste throughout the world, plastic manufacturing has a surprisingly positive environmental profile. Roughly 4% of the world’s oil production is used for plastic manufacturing around the world, far less than other materials like glass and metal. Plastic also requires less energy to produce than other materials and weighs less, reducing emissions during manufacturing and transportation. Many items can also be recycled at the end of their usable life, allowing for a more sustainable production cycle. Finally, plastics can have ingredients like BDP® added to them during manufacturing, allowing them to decompose in a few years instead of a few centuries, especially in close loop anaerobic digesters where they can be converted to biogas and compost. While glass can be treated in similar ways, no method has produced the same rate of decomposition as BDP® for plastic.

Though plastic offers many advantages over glass, it is not without its faults. Most of these faults revolve around user error, corporate greenwashing, and the abundance of single-use plastics. In terms of human error, it is estimated that less than 10% of applicable plastic products are properly recycled. This is because most people throw their plastic in the garbage or do not properly clean it before disposing of it. Greenwashing also makes certain corporations, brands, and products seem more environmentally friendly than they are, diverting attention away from ever-growing landfills and the consequences of human error. In short, plastic itself is a highly sustainable material with a low environmental footprint during manufacturing, but our practices around the handling, marketing, and disposal of it need a lot of work.

To learn more about plastic sustainability, BDP®, or greenwashing, get in touch with the team at Change Plastic for Good. We can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding BDP® or the movement to make plastic completely sustainable.