Packaging is important. It needs to be functional, attractive and convenient but also sustainable. Household products are nearly always in plastic bottles and containers. This is because plastic is perfect for transporting liquids – it is light, mouldable and cheap but sadly not readily biodegradable. This is a big problem – in fact, it takes around 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in landfill and up to 500 years in the ocean.
Plastic is not sustainable
Since the 1950’s we have thrown away around 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic and recycled 600 million tonnes: that’s only about 9.5% of plastic waste recycled. This means that over 90% of redundant plastic ends up in the environment – that’s equivalent to around 22 million tonnes of plastic waste each year.
A plastic bottle most often ends up in landfill (with all its toxic leach and escaping greenhouse gases) or it can be blown into a watercourse which flows into the sea. Researchers estimate that there are now 170 trillion plastic particles in the ocean – killing animals and polluting our marine habitats.
“..current patterns of plastic production, use, and disposal are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harms to human health, the environment, and the economy as well as for deep societal injustices” The Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health, 2023
Plastic fuels the climate crisis
It may not be so obvious, but plastic fuels the climate crisis: 98% of plastic is made from fossil carbon (coal, oil & gas) and plastic production is responsible for 5% of greenhouse gases worldwide. This is a huge and unwelcome by-product of the plastic production process.
Plastic pollution is a significant global threat and when linked to climate change can have devastating impacts, especially in marine environments. Coral reefs, for instance, can experience disease spread through plastic pollution and global bleaching events created by climate change which make them particularly vulnerable.
Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint,” Charles Moore, 1997
Our extreme reliance on plastic has caused unprecedented harm to human health and well-being, the global environment (especially the oceans), and vulnerable populations across the world. Plastic production is on the increase, in fact, more than half of all plastics ever produced have been manufactured since 2002. Only if we curb our demands for the convenience of plastic can we hope to limit the damage.
Biopolymer bottles – a better compromise
Until 2022, Greenscents used biopolymer bottles which were made from the waste from sugar cane production. This non-toxic approach still only makes up around 2% of plastic production. However, biopolymer bottles can only be disposed of like ordinary plastic made with petro-chemicals. Because biopolymer bottles are treated as plastic for recycling, it made sense to have labels that could be recycled with the bottle. This meant using label materials that were plastic based and not the most sustainable.
Recycling in the UK is confusing and variable nationwide, especially for plastic. This added to the declining reputation of plastic (and biopolymer plastic) as an acceptable packaging material.
Amber glass is best!
After our 2021 survey, it was clear that many of you wanted change and we started to consider alternative packaging materials. After much debate, we concluded that amber glass bottles were the best solution.
Amber glass is great because:
- It protects our organic ingredients from the effects of strong sunlight
- The bottles can be refilled & reused endlessly
- It is easily recyclable in UK waste systems
- Paper-based labels can be applied to the bottles, easily removed and replaced
- aluminium caps can be used as closures
- It is a premium product.
But that is not the end of plastic at Greenscents! To create a fully circular system, 5 & 20L UN approved plastic containers are available to all trade & personal customers for refilling. Everyone benefits from our free container returns service which means we can reuse 5L & 20L containers again & again. Refilling benefits include less packaging, less waste and lower transport costs – all wins for the environment.
Enjoy your Greenscents products knowing that amber glass bottles are helping to reduce the mountains of plastic waste that are discarded every day.
Find out more about our returns service here.