Plastic vs. Aluminum vs. Glass: Which Packaging Should You Choose?

Plastic vs. Aluminum vs. Glass: Which Packaging Should You Choose?

When you’re choosing a packaging option, we know that there are many factors to keep in mind. Whether you’re a consumer or a company that’s designing a new package, there are pros and cons to every packaging material. Some of the most popular ones on the market are plastic, aluminum, and glass. Depending on what you’re looking for, one of these materials might be perfect for you. Since we’ve seen many of these products come through our Chicago recycling centers, let us lend you some of our expertise. 


clear bottle

Plastic is manufactured using oil and natural gas. To get to that, companies need to drill and frack for it. If you’re concerned about going green, plastic isn’t always the best way to do it. Plastic also takes a long time to degrade, which means that it needs to be disposed of properly. Otherwise it can clog up waterways and landfills all over the world, like plenty of plastic garbage is already doing. Plastic also can’t be recycled as manytimes as aluminum and glass can.

On the bright side, plastic bottles don’t cost that much money to transport. Manufacturers have designed them to be lighter and more sustainable over the years. Because they weigh so little, less fuel is needed to ship them from the bottling plant to stores and restaurants.


Much like plastic, aluminum cans are also rather lightweight. They’re small too, which means that even more of them can fit in a truck. More cans fit into a smaller space, which means that less fuel is needed to transport a lot of them. As an added bonus, aluminum packaging isn’t fragile. That means less need for cardboard packaging.

Aluminum cans are also completely recyclable. They can keep being recycled into new containers. Unfortunately, recycling rates for aluminum packaging are rather low. Improving it can make this packaging option much greener. Bottle returns in many states encourage people to recycle more aluminum cans, but we still have a ways to go. Another issue with aluminum packaging is that it’s made with bauxite, which needs to be mined. Mining isn’t exactly a green activity.


Glass is made primarily from liquefied sand and some other additives. Many of the raw materials used to manufacture a glass bottle are easy to find in the United States. Glass packaging is also easy to recycle and it can be recycled over and over again. Around 80 percent of glass containers end up being made into new bottles, and they can be back on grocery store shelves in just a month’s time!

There are downsides though. Because glass is heavier, it costs more to transport. Glass packaging also can’t be packed together as tightly and requires more packing materials during the shipping process.

As you can see, there are a few pros and cons to each packaging method whether you’re a consumer or a food and beverage maker. The big takeaway is that many of these packaging options need to be recycled more! So contact us at Lakeshore Recycling Systems and learn more about our recycling services today.

  • Taylor Bishop
    Posted at 12:23h, 24 September Reply

    Thanks for the interesting article about these packaging materials. I actually didn’t know that plastic bottles don’t cost as much to transport. If that’s the case, I’m interested to learn if it could be an ideal material for those who have to ship out their products to all parts of the world.

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Service Update

Due to Independence Day, on Saturday, July 4, 2020 residential waste and recycling services provided by Lakeshore Recycling Systems may be affected the week of July 6th. For more information regarding your specific service area, click here.

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