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Re: [GreenYes] Threat to PEI Bottle Bill

The question for Prince Edward Island is not how PET compares against glass.
The real question is how PET, aluminum, and non-refillable glass containers
compare against refillable ones.  There have been numerous sophisticated
life cycle analyses that answer this question, dating back to the analysis
of nine beverage container alternatives published by the US Environmental
Protection Agency and conducted by Franklin Associates.  There was also a
well done study for NAPCOR - the association promoting PET beverage

In the studies I have seen, refillable glass bottles that are used 8-10
times or more have much less environmental impact than do any of the
non-refillable containers - even when the non-refillable containers are
recycled.  This holds true for all of the environmental parameters measured
- energy, air emissions, water emissions, water use, and solid waste.  

At first seemingly contrary to this, the NAPCOR study concludes that on
average, the PET containers were better environmentally than the glass
containers.  However, for glass they lumped together refillable and
non-refillable containers using the market-share that existed for each at
the time.  Looking separately at their data for refillable vs. nonrefillable
glass bottles though, it is clear that refillable glass bottles are superior
to PET, aluminum, and non-refillable glass containers.  NAPCOR also lumped
together the large PET containers (1, 2, and 3 liter) together for coming up
with their plastic average.  The 2 and 3 liter container require much less
energy for packaging the equivalent volume of soft drink than does the
"convenience-sized" 16 oz bottles.  A better comparison looks only at
containers of about the same size.  Here are the results for the amount of
energy required to package and ship 1000 gallons of soft drink in 16 oz and
12 oz packages, as reported in Figure ES-1 of the NAPCOR study:

1.5 million BTUs for the 16 oz refillable glass bottle (8 trips)
3.5 million BTUs for the 16 oz non-refillable glass bottle
3.2 million BTUs for the 16 oz PET plastic bottle
3.3 million BTUs for the 12 oz aluminum can

Prince Edward Island has a reported return rate of 97% (based on report on
the web site ), meaning that most bottles are returned an
average of 30 times for potential refilling.  PET bottles may be lighter
than glass bottles, but by the time all the refillings are taken into
account, it takes much less material to package beverages in refillable
bottles than it does to package them in plastic, aluminum, or non-refillable
glass.  For figuring out solid waste impacts, Mike shouldn't be comparing 7
oz glass bottles to 1.5 oz plastic ones - instead he should be comparing
7/30 oz of glass per refilling (about 0.25 oz of glass per filling) to 1.5
oz of plastic needing to be recycled per filling.

Peter Spendelow
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality


Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 15:53:41 -0500
From: "Mike Morrow" <>
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Threat to PEI Bottle Bill

Has anyone conducted a cost analysis between refillable glass against =
PETE?  Local waste composition studies show that glass container are =
losing significant market share.  Local beverage companies closed down =
long ago because they couldn't compete against non-refillables.  Prices =
for recycled glass are in the tank and are not  expected to recover. =20

Although I commend the PEI government for trying to maintain its local =
bottling industry, the question for me (as a waste manager) is "Which =
would I prefer to find markets for, 1000 tons of glass or 1000 tons of =
PETE?"  A more global question would be "Is a glass beverage bottle =
which weighs just over 7 oz., a more resource friendly container than a =
PETE bottle which weighs just over 1 oz.?"


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