SUSTAINOVATORS - Sustainability by Design and User Behaviour

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Disposable packaging for drinks

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Posted by Ursula A on 05-04-2016 - Last updated on 05-04-2016

There was a time when most drinks were presented in reusable bottles, big and small. Why did we go for the vast amount of disposable drink packages, cans, plastic bottles, tetra pack etc. They create that much waste and environmental damage. Can we not go back to reusable? And do we really need bottled water, if in our countries drinking water from the tap is perfectly fine and healthy?

Single use packaging for drinks use vast amounts of resources and create tonnes of waste


  1. Helen Breewood Helen Breewood

    Hi Ursula, I like this idea. However, I hope that whatever reusable solution is suggested doesn't end up having a higher environmental impact that the single-use packaging, e.g. due to being heavier and hence taking more energy to transport, or due to needing hot water for cleaning before reusing. Perhaps a Life Cycle Assessment should be performed on the proposed designs. I agree that bottled water is generally wasteful, not to mention overpriced! Best wishes, Helen

  2. Mirjam Mirjam

    Hi Ursula, I actually made a LCA a while ago when I wanted to know the impact of my choice of sparkling water when I lived in China, where they don't make sparkling water a lot and sometimes you are in the mood for something .... . So I compared an available belgium produced PET 1,5 liter bottle with an italian glass .75 Liter including the supply chain making a few percentage better solution to go for PET. Not because of the weight Helen but of volume which is more important in shipping than weight both on cost and on eco-cost. And ..... re-use only makes sense if the supply chain is more local or the bottles are standardized otherwise the material reduction is eaten up by the extra transportation. Agreed of course that it is best to drink from the tap for environment and your wallet. Hug, Mirjam

    1. Helen Breewood Helen Breewood

      Hi Mirjam, Interesting to hear that you have done an LCA. In what way was the volume more important? Was it because there was less packaging per litre of drink? I have seen some juice companies offering super-concentrated squash that needs only a few drops in one glass of water. Perhaps this is a good way to reduce the volume/weight being transported. Best wishes, Helen

    2. Bonnie Lewtas Bonnie Lewtas

      I was thinking along those lines as well.

  3. Mirjam Mirjam

    Hi Helen, have a look here for the LCA To get the same 1.5 Liter of water you need two glass bottles. Less liters of water fit in a container in the glass case. Also processing of glass is cost more eco-cost/CO2 as processing PET which you are not saving in re-use if you ship over long-distances. IN a case of re-usable flower crates versus paper pulp disposable ones 500km was the breaking point. I guess it would be about the same for the decision on re-use glass versus PET and recycle.

    1. Helen Breewood Helen Breewood

      Fantastic, thanks.

  4. Ursula A Ursula A

    thanks, Helen and Mirjam for your comments and this nice discussion threat, we have done quite some LCA studies on this issue and yes, it is clear, key is decentralized systems otherwise reusing glass bottles and transporting them over long distances makes no sense...but hey, we are designers and investors so we might come up even with a better system than reusing glass bottles.... ;-)