Glass vs Plastic: Is Glass Better for Skincare Packaging?

Glass vs Plastic: Is Glass Better for Skincare Packaging?

A prevalent debate in the beauty industry is whether glass is a better option than plastic for skincare packaging.

While glass is often touted as the more eco-friendly choice, it's essential to examine the full picture, including the environmental drawbacks of glass manufacturing and transport.

This blog post delves into the pros and cons of glass versus plastic for skincare packaging, with a focus on the negative impacts of glass on the environment.

The Depletion of Natural Resources

The Sand Crisis: A Hidden Cost of Glass Production

One critical factor often overlooked in the glass vs plastic debate is the source material: sand.

Glass manufacturing requires vast amounts of sand, particularly high-purity silica sand, which is becoming increasingly scarce. Sand might seem like an inexhaustible resource, but not all sand is suitable for glass production.

The specific type needed is being depleted at an alarming rate. Unlike other resources, sand isn't renewable; once it's used, it won't "grow" back.

This depletion leads to the erosion of riverbeds and beaches, causing habitat destruction and negatively impacting biodiversity.

High-Temperature Manufacturing: Pollution and Energy Consumption

The Environmental Toll of Glass Production

Another significant drawback of glass is the high temperatures required during its manufacturing process. To transform raw materials into glass, furnaces must reach temperatures exceeding 1,700 degrees Celsius.

This intense heat demands substantial energy, predominantly sourced from fossil fuels, resulting in high carbon emissions. The production of one tonne of glass can release up to 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing significantly to global warming.

In contrast, plastic production, while still energy-intensive, generally requires lower temperatures, resulting in relatively lower emissions.

However, plastic's environmental drawbacks, including its long decomposition time and contribution to ocean pollution, complicate the decision.

The Transportation Factor: Weight and Carbon Footprint

Heavy Weight, Heavy Impact: Glass vs Plastic Transport

Glass is notably heavier than plastic, impacting its environmental footprint during transportation. The weight of glass increases fuel consumption and carbon emissions throughout the supply chain.

For instance, transporting glass skincare bottles from the manufacturer to the retailer involves higher fuel usage compared to their plastic counterparts. This increased fuel consumption not only elevates shipping costs but also contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, the fragility of glass requires more protective packaging, often involving additional materials such as cardboard and bubble wrap, which further increase the environmental impact.

Glass: The Recyclability Advantage

Despite these drawbacks, glass has one significant environmental benefit: its recyclability. Glass can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality or purity, reducing the need for new raw materials and energy consumption over time.

This closed-loop system makes glass a more sustainable option compared to plastic, which often degrades in quality each time it is recycled and is limited in the number of times it can be reused.

Plastic: Lightweight but Persistent

Plastic's primary advantage lies in its lightweight nature and durability. These qualities make plastic a convenient and cost-effective packaging option. However, the environmental impact of plastic waste is severe.

Plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose, and microplastics have become a pervasive pollutant in oceans and ecosystems, posing significant threats to wildlife and human health.

The Middle Ground: Sustainable Alternatives

For the environmentally conscious consumer, seeking out sustainable alternatives and innovations in packaging can mitigate the drawbacks of both materials.

Biodegradable plastics, glass with higher recycled content, and even emerging materials like bioplastics and plant-based packaging offer promising solutions.

Brands are increasingly adopting eco-friendly packaging practices, such as refillable containers and minimalist designs, to reduce their environmental footprint.

The Rise of Recycled PET Plastic

The Versatility of rPET

Recycled PET (rPET) plastic is made from post-consumer plastic products, such as water bottles and packaging materials, that have been collected, cleaned, and reprocessed. This process diverts plastic waste from landfills and oceans, giving it a new life in the form of various products, including skincare packaging, clothing, and even furniture.

Environmental Benefits of rPET

Reducing Plastic Waste

One of the primary advantages of rPET is its ability to reduce plastic waste. By reusing existing plastic, rPET minimizes the need for new plastic production, thereby conserving resources and reducing the environmental footprint associated with extracting and processing virgin materials. This recycling loop helps mitigate the accumulation of plastic waste, which is a significant environmental concern.

Lower Carbon Footprint

Producing rPET requires less energy compared to manufacturing virgin plastic. This energy efficiency translates into lower greenhouse gas emissions, making rPET a more environmentally friendly option.

The production of rPET can reduce carbon emissions by up to 60% compared to new plastic, contributing to efforts to combat climate change.

Innovations in rPET Usage

Upcycling for Sustainable Fashion

The use of rPET extends beyond packaging. Many companies are now upcycling rPET into products such as swimwear, activewear, and even shoes.

Brands like Patagonia, Adidas and Australian swimwear label Styelle Swim are leading the charge by incorporating recycled materials into their product lines, demonstrating the versatility and potential of rPET in promoting a circular economy.

rPET in Skincare Packaging

Lightweight and Durable

In the context of skincare packaging, rPET offers several advantages. It retains the lightweight and durable properties of traditional plastic, making it cost-effective and easy to transport. This can significantly reduce shipping emissions compared to heavier materials like glass.


rPET is recyclable, and using it helps close the loop in the recycling process. When consumers recycle rPET packaging, it can be processed and reused multiple times, further enhancing its sustainability credentials.

This contrasts with certain types of plastic that can only be recycled a limited number of times before becoming non-recyclable waste.

Challenges and Considerations

Quality and Contamination Issues

Despite its benefits, rPET does face some challenges. The quality of recycled plastic can vary, and contamination during the recycling process can affect the final product. Ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality rPET requires robust recycling infrastructure and consumer participation in recycling programs.

Market Demand and Supply

The demand for rPET is growing, but so is the need for a steady supply of recyclable materials. Balancing this demand with the availability of recyclable plastic remains a challenge. Increased consumer awareness and improved recycling systems are crucial to addressing this issue.

The Clear Winner?

Considering the environmental benefits and the innovative uses of rPET, it indeed emerges as a strong contender in the sustainable packaging landscape. While glass offers recyclability and an upscale aesthetic, its high energy consumption and transportation emissions cannot be ignored.

Traditional plastic, on the other hand, poses significant environmental risks due to its persistence in ecosystems.

rPET provides a viable middle ground, leveraging the benefits of plastic while addressing some of its most pressing environmental concerns.

By choosing products packaged in rPET and supporting brands that prioritise recycled materials, consumers can play a vital role in promoting sustainability.

Ultimately, the choice between glass, plastic, and rPET will depend on various factors, including the specific use case, environmental impact, and consumer preferences. However, the rise of rPET and its growing adoption across industries signals a positive shift towards more sustainable practices and a reduced environmental footprint.


So when it comes to skincare packaging, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Glass and plastic each have their environmental impacts that must be carefully weighed.

While glass offers superior recyclability and a premium aesthetic, its high energy demands and heavier weight pose significant environmental challenges.

Plastic, though lighter and less energy-intensive to produce, creates long-term waste management issues.

As consumers, making informed choices and supporting brands that prioritise sustainable practices can drive the industry towards more eco-friendly solutions.