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Reuse of Packaging of Bottles

Reuse of packaging which requires the end customer to return packaging to the supply chain – eg glass milk bottles – has been in decline for several years. However, it is possible to have a level of reuse within your business and design packaging that lends itself more easily to reuse. The most common form of reuse for consumer products is of strong packaging that stays with the end user – such as spice jars, biscuit tins or laundry detergent bottles. You may also be able to reuse packaging within your own business or involve other organisations – such as other businesses in your supply chain.

You should consider whether packaging intended for reuse will actually get reused. For example, you may need to provide refills for people who already have reusable jars, bottles, tins, etc.

There are several aspects of reuse that your business should consider when designing product packaging.

Durability and weight

The options your business could consider include:

  • reinforcing existing packaging designs to turn a one-use pack into a reusable system
  • ensuring the finish of the packaging can withstand several reuses
  • making the packaging lightweight yet durable by using alternative materials Use and handling

The options your business could consider include:

  • ensuring packaging is robust enough to be loaded and unloaded without any significant damage
  • making the packaging easy to collapse and stack with clear markings on how the packs should be stacked or nested
  • easy opening and secure closing
  • easy label removal and attachment to allow reuse

Cleaning and refurbishment

The options your business could consider include:

  • designing the packaging so that it can easily be washed ready for reuse
  • making the packaging modular and repairable
  • ensuring the cleaning process can be completed with the minimum impact on the environment


Glass Bottle Packaging — Reuse vs.

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Imagine the following: You go to the kitchen, pull a glass out of the cabinet, and pour a delicious glassful of “Wheat Grass and Cranberry Spritzer” or whatever drink suits your fancy. You drink it down. Mmm. Then you put the glass in the recycle bin. Every time you or someone else in your household uses a glass for a drink, into the recycle bin it goes. Every week when you go to the grocery store, you buy new glasses. Keep imagining…. Restaurants do the same thing—every glass of wine, beer, water or whiskey they serve requires a new glass, rather than being served in a glass that gets washed and reused.

What is the point of this Bizarro World of Glassware? The idea is to imagine the inefficiency that would be inherent in such glass use:

  • the energy required to transport and process the additional “glass to be recycled”;
  • the energy required to create the new glassware from recycled glass (or from raw materials, when people aren’t recycling properly);
  • the pollution associated with these operations;
  • or, in the worst case, where people are too lazy to recycle their glasses, the disposal costs.

Of course, we do not do this with the glasses in our kitchen cabinets—we reuse them hundreds of times. But realize that the Bizarro World of Glassware DOES apply to glass bottle packaging. The glass bottles and jars in which we buy juice, fancy teas, spaghetti sauce, and other food and beverage products are not cleaned and reused in the US, they are recycled (or, all too often, just tossed in the trash). Even the better case, recycling, requires the glass bottle packaging to be stripped of its labels, melted down, and reformed into new glass. This is far more energy-intensive than sterilizing and reusing the bottles.

So, why don’t we do the sensible thing and reuse glass bottles? Or is this idea just a brainless pipedream from someone who’s taken one too many swigs off the ol’ bottle of prune ripple?


Recycling glass does indeed save energy as compared to using raw ingredients to make new glass. The Glass Packaging Institute notes that energy costs drop about 2-3% for every 10% of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process. Glass bottle recycling also reduces resource use and pollution.

But what about glass bottle reuse? Good news! Costs drop even more when glass packages are sterilized and reused without being crushed, melted, and reformed. There are many factors that affect the costs and efficiencies associated with a bottle reuse program as compared to recycling “non-refillables,” including:

  • Whether deposits on refillable bottles (or taxes on non-refillable bottles) are required to increase recovery rates of refillables.
  • How successful local recycling programs are at collecting non-refillable bottles.
  • How willing retailers are to accommodate collection programs for refillables.
  • Whether the beverage industry will geographically restructure its bottling operations to reduce the distance traveled by refillables.
  • Whether beverage companies will collaborate to use industry-standard bottles (or whether governments are willing to force them to do so).

Cost-benefit analyses must make assumptions about these and other factors related to consumer behavior, government policy, manufacturers’ attitudes, and more. But studies have indeed been done, and overall the message is clear—from an efficiency standpoint, using refillable glass bottles is one of the least costly packaging methods, beating even the lowly wax-covered carton, which is one of the least-expensive one-way packaging options. The most expensive packaging option—of any kind—is usually found to be non-returnable glass bottles.

So, if it’s so economically advantageous, why don’t we do it?

BARRIERS TO GLASS BOTTLE REUSEThere are three main sticking points when it comes to changing over from using disposable glass bottles to using refillable glass bottles. The first is the beverage industry, where packaging has become part of marketing. Whether the bottle is plastic or glass, companies like having complete control over bottle characteristics like shape, color, opacity, and surface roughness. All of these things play a part in presenting the beverage to consumers in just the right way—at least in the minds of today’s fuzzy-headed marketers.

To make any re-use process efficient, one would have to greatly reduce the number of bottle configurations so bottles are no longer manufacturer-specific and can be reused in a way that minimizes transport distances. But moving to a system like this would largely remove the glass bottle from the marketing equation, and the beverage industry doesn’t like that idea at all. Further, they perceive customers to be convenience-oriented, and anything that might discourage them from making a purchase—such as not wanting to have to worry about returning a bottle to get the deposit back—is opposed by manufacturers. THE CRITIC HAD A GLASS “BUT”…

One additional argument critics sometimes use to make glass-bottle reuse seem inefficient is to say that consumers would have to burn gasoline to get the bottles to the pickup point. This is a specious argument—if consumers take the bottles back to their grocery store as part of their normal shopping trip, there is no additional gasoline use. Similarly, when new bottled products are shipped from bottling plants to stores, the trucks would take the empties back to the plant on the return trip (instead of being empty). There could actually be a net transportation savings since curb-side recycling costs would be lowered due to less weight to transport.

The second barrier to bottle reuse is food-store chains, who are none-too-enthusiastic about the idea of having to collect bottles. It takes space and (usually) extra people to manage collection and deposit refunds.

The third major sticking point to glass bottle reuse is, I am sad to say, us. We consumers seem to be generally happy with a throw-away society—especially here in the US—and glass bottles are no exception. Many of us are willing to put our glass containers in the recycling bin, but only about 25% of glass packaging is recycled in the US. And anyway, the point of the article is that even if you are a good recycler, turning recycled glass bottles back into new bottles takes more energy than simply reusing them.


There are a lot of hurdles to replacing our approach of recycling glass bottles with a new program of reusing them. It will require a change in consumer mindset and a large amount of grassroots pressure to overcome the hammerlock the beverage industry has on government lawmakers. But it can be done—that’s how recycling programs got started!

You can get more information about refillable beverage containers *****cardboard
Cardboard boxes are industrially prefabricated boxes, primarily used for packaging goods and materials. Specialists in industry seldom use the term cardboard because it does not denote a specific material.[1][2]

The term cardboard may refer to a variety of heavy paper-like materials,[3] including card stock, corrugated fiberboard,[4] or paperboard.[5] The meaning of the term may depend on the locale, contents, construction, and personal choice. Broad divisions of paper-based packaging materials are:

Paper is thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets.

Paperboard, sometimes known as cardboard, is generally thicker (usually over 0.25 mm or 10 points) than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight (grammage) above 224 g/m², but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single- or multi-ply. Corrugated fiberboard sometimes known as corrugated board or corrugated cardboard, is a combined paper-based material consisting of a fluted corrugated medium and one or two flat linerboards. There are also multiple names for containers:

A shipping container made of corrugated fiberboard is sometimes called a “cardboard box”, a “carton”, or a “case”. A folding carton made of paperboard is sometimes called a “cardboard box’’. A set-up box is made of a non-bending grade of paperboard and is sometimes called a “cardboard box”. Drink boxes made of paperboard laminates, are sometimes called “cardboard boxes” and sometimes “cartons” or “boxes”.

The first commercial paperboard (not corrugated) box company in England started in 1817 by Sir Thornhill.[9][10][11] Cardboard box packaging was made the same year in Germany.[12]

The Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes. Gair’s invention came about as a result of an accident: he was a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker during the 1870s, and one day, while he was printing an order of seed bags, a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut them. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing in one operation he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes. Applying this idea to corrugated boxboard was a straightforward development when the material became available around the turn of the twentieth century.[13]

The advent of flaked cereals increased the use of cardboard boxes. The first to use cardboard boxes as cereal cartons was the Kellogg Company.

Housing and furniture[edit]Living in a cardboard box is stereotypically associated with homelessness.[20] However in 2005, Melbourne architect Peter Ryan designed a house composed largely of cardboard.[21] More common are small seatings or little tables made from corrugated cardboard. Very often you see selling displays in shops from cardboard in self service shops.

Recycling[edit]Most types of “cardboard” are recyclable. Boards that are laminates, wax coated, or treated for wet-strength are often more difficult to recycle.

Damping by crushing[edit]Mass and viscosity of the enclosed air help together with the limited stiffness of boxes to damp the velocity of oncoming objects. In 2012, British stuntman Gary Connery safely landed via wingsuit without deploying his parachute, landing on a 3,6 m high crushable “runway” (landing zone) built with thousands of cardboard boxes.[22]

Paper or plastic bags: which is better?

It’s an age old question, when it comes time to check out when grocery shopping: paper bag or plastic bag? It seems like it should be an easy choice, but there’s an incredible number of details and inputs hidden in each bag. From durability and reusability to life cycle costs, there’s a lot more to each bag than meet the eye. Let’s take a look behind the bags.

Where do brown paper bags come from?

Paper comes from trees — lots and lots of trees. The logging industry, influenced by companies like Weyerhaeuser and Kimberly-Clark, is huge, and the process to get that paper bag to the grocery store is long, sordid and exacts a heavy toll on the planet. First, the trees are found, marked and felled in a process that all too often involves clear-cutting, resulting in massive habitat destruction and long-term ecological damage.

Mega-machinery comes in to remove the logs from what used to be forest, either by logging trucks or even helicopters in more remote areas. This machinery requires fossil fuel to operate and roads to drive on, and, when done unsustainably, logging even a small area has a large impact on the entire ecological chain in surrounding areas.

Once the trees are collected, they must dry at least three years before they can be used. More machinery is used to strip the bark, which is then chipped into one-inch squares and cooked under tremendous heat and pressure. This wood stew is then “digested,” with a chemical mixture of limestone and acid, and after several hours of cooking, what was once wood becomes pulp. It takes approximately three tons of wood chips to make one ton of pulp.

The pulp is then washed and bleached; both stages require thousands of gallons of clean water. Coloring is added to more water, and is then combined in a ratio of 1 part pulp to 400 parts water, to make paper. The pulp/water mixture is dumped into a web of bronze wires, and the water showers through, leaving the pulp, which, in turn, is rolled into paper.

Whew! And that’s just to make the paper; don’t forget about the energy inputs — chemical, electrical, and fossil fuel-based — used to transport the raw material, turn the paper into a bag and then transport the finished paper bag all over the world.

Where do paper shopping bags go when you’re done with them?

When you’re done using paper shopping bags, for shopping or other household reuses, a couple of things can happen. If minimally-inked (or printed with soy or other veggie-based inks) they can be composted; otherwise, they can be recycled in most mixed-paper recycling schemes, or they can be thrown away (which is not something we recommend).

If you compost them, the bags break down and go from paper to a rich soil nutrient over a period of a couple of months; if you throw them away, they’ll eventually break down of the period of many, many years (and without the handy benefits that compost can provide). If you choose to recycle paper bags, then things get a little tricky.

The paper must first be re-pulped, which usually requires a chemical process involving compounds like hydrogen peroxide, sodium silicate and sodium hydroxide, which bleach and separate the pulp fibers. The fibers are then cleaned and screened to be sure they’re free of anything that would contaminate the paper-making process, and are then washed to remove any leftover ink before being pressed and rolled into paper, as before

How are plastic bags made?

Unlike paper bags, plastic bags are typically made from oil, a non-renewable resource. Plastics are a by-product of the oil-refining process, accounting for about four percent of oil production around the globe. The biggest energy input is from the plastic bag creation process is electricity, which, in this country, comes from coal-burning power plants at least half of the time; the process requires enough juice to heat the oil up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, where it can be separated into its various components and molded into polymers. Plastic bags most often come from one of the five types of polymers — polyethylene — in its low-density form (LDPE), which is also known as #4 plastic.

How does plastic bag recycling work?

Like paper, plastic can be recycled, but it isn’t simple or easy. Recycling involves essentially re-melting the bags and re-casting the plastic, though, according to the U.S. EPA, manufacturing new plastic from recycled plastic requires two-thirds of the energy used in virgin plastic manufacturing. But, as any chef who has ever tried to re-heat a Hollondaise sauce will tell you, the quality isn’t quite as good the second time around; the polymer chains often separate break (thanks to reader MaryBeth for noting the difference between “separate” and “break” — the former implies that the chains can come back together, which they can’t), leading to a lower-quality product.

What does that mean to you? Basically, plastic is often downcycled — that is, the material loses viability and/or value in the process of recycling — into less functional forms, making it hard to make new plastic bags out of old plastic bags.

What about biodegradable plastic bags?

Biodegradable plastic is a mixed bag (pun intended) as well; while biopolymers like polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and Polylactide (PLA) are completely biodegradable in compost (and very, very, very slowly — if at all — in a landfill) and are not made from petroleum products, they are often derived from our food sources.

The primary feedstock for bioplastics today is corn, which is rife with agro-political conflict and often grown and harvested unsustainably; because of these reasons, and because it competes with food supply, it is not likely to be a long-term solution in the plastics world.

Plus, some bags marked “biodegradable” are not actually so — they’re recycled plastic mixed with cornstarch. The cornstarch biodegrades and the plastic breaks down into tiny little pieces but does not actually “biodegrade,” leaving a yucky polymer mess (if in small pieces). The only way to avoid this? Look for 100 percent plant-based polymers, like the two mentioned above.

So, while it’s good to have the alternative (and to recognize the innovation it represents), bioplastics aren’t quite ready to save us from the paper or plastic debate.

Paper or plastic: A look at the facts and numbers

Further insight into the implications of using and recycling each kind of bag can be gained from looking at overall energy, emissions, and other life cycle-related costs of production and recycling. According to a life cycle analysis by Franklin Associates, Ltd, [pdf] plastic bags create fewer airborne emissions and require less energy during the life cycle of both types of bags per 10,000 equivalent uses — plastic creates 9.1 cubic pounds of solid waste vs. 45.8 cubic pounds for paper; plastic creates 17.9 pounds of atmospheric emissions vs. 64.2 pounds for paper; plastic creates 1.8 pounds of waterborne waste vs. 31.2 pounds for paper.

Paper bags can hold more stuff per bag — anywhere from 50 percent to 400 percent more, depending on how they’re packed, since they hold more volume and are sturdier. The numbers here assume that each paper bag holds 50 percent more than each plastic bag, meaning that it takes one and half plastic bags to equal a paper bag — it’s not a one-to-one comparison, even though plastic still comes out ahead.

It’s important to note that all of the above numbers assume that none of the bags are recycled, which adds a lot of negative impacts for both the paper and plastic bags; the numbers decrease in size (and the relative impacts decrease) as more bags are recycled. Interestingly, the numbers for paper bag recycling get better faster — the more that are recycled, the lower their overall environmental impact — but, because plastic bags use much less to begin with, they still ends up creating less solid and waterborne waste and airborne emissions.

These days cardboard is being used more and more for storing a wide variety of goods in, from being used to ship fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables in, through to long term storage of documents.

Related Articles Options for Small Cardboard Boxes Cardboard Boxes Cardboard Boxes and Their Effects on the Environment Cardboard Boxes Where as once only wooden crates were used to ship fruit in such as apples and bananas, a huge amount of fruit is now shipped in cardboard boxes.

The reason for this is they are very easy to recycle as they can simply be folded flat when they have been used, where as older wooden fruit crates had to be broken up, or they would take up huge amounts of space, and many were not re-used, and given the amount of them that were being produced they were using up a lot of trees building them, which is not now classed as very eco-friendly. Cardboard is, as it can be recycled. Indeed fruit and vegetable retailers and wholesalers actually do recycle a lot of cardboard boxes.

Other storage uses for cardboard boxes now include those used by removal firms, who once upon a time used wooden storage crates, but these took up a lot of room as they could not be folded flat. With advent of strong cardboard boxes, they still do the same job as the wooden ones, yet fold flat when not in use. This means the removal firm saves money, as they do not need such a large storage area. Yet the boxes are strong enough to be stored full of goods one on top of the other, either whilst being used to move house, or for long-term storage.

Cite this page

Reuse of Packaging of Bottles. (2016, Apr 27). Retrieved from

Reuse of Packaging of Bottles

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