General Question

marmoset's avatar

Recycling question: if I could buy a 12-ounce can of something or a 12-ounce bottle of something, which would be better?

Asked by marmoset (1311points) September 1st, 2012 from iPhone

I assume can because this requires less weight/mass of metal than of glass, but maybe glass takes less energy to recycle or some other factor?

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19 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

From a recycling point of view glass is the best. Unfortunately in this country we don’t really do that anymore and instead just keep producing glass/aluminum containers.

When I was living in Belize everything came in glass bottles. After you finished your drink you brought the bottles back to the super market for a refund. The company would come by and pick up all their bottles, bring them to the plant, wash them, fill em, and send them out again.

rooeytoo's avatar

I agree with uber, glass is preferable from health standpoint as well. There is some discussion that aluminum leeching may have deleterious effects.

When I was little, everything milk, soda, beer came in a bottle and there was a deposit on them all. It worked very well. There were no bottles lying along the side of the road because they were all worth something. You could get enough money for an ice cream or a candy bar by returning a couple of bottles for the deposit. Now in this enlightened world we live in today, it is no longer so. Although in Australia, there is one state that does have deposits on plastic bottles.

Staalesen's avatar

Here in norway we still have that deposit thing, both for glass bottlea, plastic bottles and aluminum cans :)

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dabbler's avatar

Depends on what you consider better. From purely a recycling point of view, aluminum beats glass easily.
Recycling glass “recovers” about half the energy needed to make it in the first place; that much is saved when making a new glass thing out of a bottle.
Recycling aluminum “recovers” about 95% of what it took to make it in the first place.

Judi's avatar

@uberbatman, that’s what they used to do here in the states too.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@dabbler but most of the time when we “recycle” glass all we do is wash it out.

@Judi yea I know, its a shame we don’t do that anymore. It worked so much better down there with that system. Plus everything tasted amazing because it was in a glass bottle.

YARNLADY's avatar

In California there is a deposit on just about everything that can be recycled, plus an extra sur-charge on things that are more polluting than normal, such as electronics and petroleum products.

Recycled glass is no longer washed out and reused, but rather, broken into small parts and shipped overseas to be melted down and made into something new, just like plastics.

rooeytoo's avatar

@YARNLADY – is there a reason for that? Seems as if washing and reusing glass bottles makes a lot more sense???

dabbler's avatar

In the U.S. is more typical to crush glass to recycle it. The reason is distribution costs, or rather reverse-distribution costs – getting particular bottles back to the same factory from which they came.
Beverage manufacturers for the most part have done away with the washing facilities too. They mostly use newly made bottles.

jaytkay's avatar

Here in Illinois, people collect cans to sell by the pound. Put a bag of cans in the alley, it disappears within an hour.

Nobody collects bottles.

So I think that means cans are much more easily turned into usable material. It is so easy that people can pay collectors and still make a profit.

YARNLADY's avatar

In California, there are many health/environmental regulations that make it more expensive to try to simply wash and reuse bottles. It is more economical to sell the crushed glass overseas and buy the new product.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@YARNLADY that’s ridiculous. Its not that hard to properly clean a glass bottle. But instead we just say fuck it, we’ll just make a new one.

rooeytoo's avatar

It seems as if you can sterilize baby bottles and reuse them, or glasses in a bar or restaurant, you ought to be able to do the same to recycle bottles. As for getting them back to the correct origin, they did it years ago without computers, seems as if it shouldn’t be any more difficult!

YARNLADY's avatar

@uberbatman Many of the regulations are related to large processing plants, such as air emission standards, recycling of used water, OSHA standards for workers, and of course, permits, taxes and such. It truly is cheaper to buy the product “new”.

@rooeytoo It’s not just a few dozen bottle we are talking about here, but rather millions. Plus in many cases, the company of origin has gone out of business, or moved out of the country.

dabbler's avatar

It certainly is possible to clean bottles and re-use them. The bottlers in the U.S. used to do that all the time. But the coming of plastic bottles reduced the use of glass bottles for soft drinks to nearly none. The plastic bottles were so cheap they’re considered disposable.
Beer comes in glass bottles, but the supermarkets don’t want to store the used bottles and the distributors don’t want to ship them back to the plant, and the bottlers don’t want to wash and re-label them.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@YARNLADY that just tells me there is a problem with this system.

jaytkay's avatar

Michigan required deposits on bottles and cans over thirty years ago, and it requires stores to take the empties.

Every store takes in empties. Glass bottles are washed and re-used.

California only went halfway. They have the deposits, but their are few places to redeem them.

According to this site, only 11 grocery stores in Los Angeles accept empties:

YARNLADY's avatar

@uberbatman Yes, you are correct. The system is just as bad as the government when it comes to efficient recycling. There is proof that recycling glass uses 30% less energy, and there are many indicators of other benefits , but the system is unable to make progress in realizing the benefits of recycling because the raw materials for the new products are still cheaper than the recycled materials.

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