Glass is the trusted and proven packaging for health, taste and the environment. It is also the only widely used food packaging granted the FDA status of “GRAS” or generally recognised as safe – the highest standard available.
Glass has many benefits, including but not limited to the following. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. 80% of the glass that is recovered is made into new glass products (by comparison metal is at about 65%, paper at about 60% and PET is at about 30%). A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as little as 30 days. This is twice the speed of an aluminum can returning to the shelf. Glass is non-porous and impermeable, so there are no interactions between glass packaging and products to affect the flavour of food and beverages. Glass also has an almost zero rate of chemical interactions, ensuring that the products inside a glass bottle keep their strength, aroma, and flavour.
Total glass production in the EU has reached a volume of more than 33 million tonnes, making it the largest glass producer in the world, with a production value of approximately €35 billion. Germany is the EU’s biggest producer, with about one fifth of the volume, closely followed by France, Italy, Spain and the UK.
In the USA, glass container companies represent a $5.5 billion dollar industry, and employ about 18,000 skilled workers in 49 glass manufacturing plants in 22 states. There are more than 80 recycled glass processors in 35 states. On average, a typical glass processing facility can handle 20 tonnes of colour-sorted glass per hour.
There are many reasons why consumers prefer to buy products in glass. In the pharmaceutical domain, glass is an excellent material to store drugs, as it is inert and will not react with the various chemicals found in health products. In addition, it will keep the quality and integrity of the product for longer than other materials. It is also the only packaging material which requires no protective layer between content and container, preserving the natural flavour and appearance of products without the need for preservatives. Glass containers are re-sealable, which also helps to keep products fresher for longer once opened.
Any mention of glass will always focus on its unique advantage in that it can be endlessly recycled without any loss of quality to produce another glass bottle or jar, which makes it the only true cradle to cradle recycling material. Of all the ecological initiatives implemented by governments across Europe, glass recycling continues to be one of the strongest performers. Strong co-operation between consumers, public authorities and the glass container industry has resulted in high recycling rates across most countries.
Not only does recycling glass reduce landfill, it also decreases the need for raw materials and energy in the manufacture of new glass containers. Recycled glass, known as cullet, has a lower melting point than raw materials, which means that more glass can be melted for the same energy investment, emissions can be reduced and the furnace life extended. And since up to 90% of cullet can be used to manufacture new containers, the only real limit to using recycled glass today is the amount of glass recovered and the availability of cullet in Europe, preferably colour-sorted whenever possible.
Glass is the only packaging material that can be manufactured in a closed loop. This means that because used glass packaging can be recycled again and again to create new bottles and jars, it never needs to go into landfill
Labelling, and the part glass plays
Saturday, 13 December marked a new change for food and drink safety in Europe – the new EU food labelling rules came into force. Restaurants and cafes will now have to list which foods in their menus contain which allergens – something which previously was only obligatory for packaged foods. Food labelling has increasingly become a stronger and more important issue in Europe – showing, again, how health and food safety is a top European consumer concern.
However, it is important to note that when looking out for your health and food safety interests, it is not only important to look at the label – but to also to look beyond the label, and look at the packaging your food or drink came in.
While labels give us the important information about the nutritional value and health elements of our food and drink, they say nothing about the way that the packaging can interact with that food and drink – which in turn can affect the taste and quality of the product itself.
Glass packaging is made of 100% natural ingredients, and is inert – which means that there is no interaction between the glass and your preferred food and drink within. The product is kept as pure, fresh and tasty as it was originally produced, and for much longer than in any other packaging solutions.
That is why science says glass is the best packaging option when it comes to food safety and taste preservation, and why 87% of European consumers recommend glass packaging
Trusting in glass
Independent research conducted with 8,000 consumers reveals that Europeans are more worried about health and food safety than environmental problems, international terrorism or public safety; the role of packaging in food safety is amongst a list of key concerns.
The findings unveil a growing concern amongst European consumers linked to the potential health risks of chemical compounds leaching into food from packaging. Two thirds (66%) of consumers admit that they are worried about food contamination, as well as the risk of chemicals leaching from food packaging into its content.
Eight out of 10 consumers surveyed believe these chemical interactions could be a risk to human health. The findings also reveal that, out of all materials surveyed including metal, cartons, bag in box, plastics and glass, European consumers (60%) are most worried about plastics containers impacting the food/beverage content or ingredients.
Health concerns play a key role in consumer decision making, and in driving demand for food or beverages packed in glass. Among those who opt for glass, 61% trust it as the safest packaging for their health. This compares with 48% of consumers surveyed in 2010.
Commenting on behalf of the Glass Community, Adeline Farrelly – secretary general of FEVE, the European Container Glass Federation, states: "It is clear that consumers worry about contamination from packaging. Nowadays, consumers are looking at how products are stored and packaged – not only at what’s written on the label. Studies show packaging materials are leaking chemicals into food, which is a very real concern. Parents of young children are particularly cautious: 77% of European parents prefer glass for storing baby food, while 61% avoid buying baby food in plastics bottles or other materials."
Professor Dieter Schrenk, an expert in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, comments on the existing body of scientific research into migration of chemicals from packaging materials: "The issue of transfer of food packaging material-borne compounds into the food is important. Here, plastics polymers, metals and paper/cartonboard have been shown in the past to be a relevant source for unwanted chemicals in food. These occur via migration of mostly intentionally added or process-related constituents. Although the risk of exposure towards food contaminated with such compounds is considered as low, more research is needed to clarify this issue scientifically."
Adeline Farrelly continues: "To avoid unwanted contamination from packaging, particularly when making important decisions such as during the weekly family shop, consumers should ‘look beyond the label’ – not only at a product’s ingredients but also at what form of packaging they are buying. An increasing number of Europeans surveyed (87% compared with 74% of those surveyed in 2010) recommend glass as their number one packaging choice for food or beverages. This clearly demonstrates that consumers trust glass as one of the most pure and inert materials."
Glass is the packaging material which acts as a natural and impermeable barrier; it does not interact with food and drink products. In the US, glass is the only widely used packaging material considered "GRAS" or "generally recognised as safe" by the US. Food and Drug Administration. In 2011, when banning the use of BPA for plastics baby bottles, the EU recommended glass as a safe alternative for human health.
The EU Commission is strengthening legislation related to chemicals which leach out of food packaging. Glass packaging will meet the most stringent of any future EU food contact standards and regulations because glass is chemically inert, meaning that it does not interact with its contents and it is impermeable to external contaminants.
 see: http://www.gpi.org/learn-about-glass/
 BPA is short for Bisphenol-A, a plasticiser used for some plastics manufacture
 EC Directive 2011/8/E