Beer Cans Vs. Beer Bottles: Environmental Impact

Recycling has become a big issue globally. In fact, the United Nations estimates that global waste production will double by 2050.

Beer Cans Vs. Beer Bottles Environmental Impact

This means that we need to start thinking about how to recycle properly.

Recycling is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and save energy. But, some things are better recycled in other ways.

For example, aluminum cans are very easy for processing plants to recycle the usual way, but, although glass is fully recyclable, the process is a lot more strenuous.

So, what is the difference in terms of environmental impact between beer cans and beer bottles? Stick with us to find out. 

Are Beer Cans Bad For The Environment? 

The really bad thing about aluminum beer cans is that they take a whole heck of a lot of energy and resources to produce, much more than glass bottles.

They also release some nasty stuff when left in landfills.

Ultimately, the production process of aluminum beer cans contributes a pretty large amount to carbon emissions, which is, of course, problematic.

They use up more electricity, more oil, and more water than glass bottles.

What About Glass Beer Bottles? 

Glass bottles are also bad for the environment because they take up a lot of space in landfills, and they are harder to recycle.

They also use up quite a lot of energy during transportation due to their weight when compared to aluminum.

But, unlike beer cans, they do eventually degrade into smaller pieces. That said, this process takes time. It usually happens over hundreds or thousands of years.

In addition, glass bottles aren’t always easy to recycle. Instead, they require special equipment to separate them from other materials. Plus, they often contain lead, making them less desirable for recycling.

So, if glass bottles are hard to recycle, then why bother? Well, there are still benefits to using them.

For example, glass bottles are taste-neutral, meaning they won’t compromise the flavor of a beverage in any way whatsoever.

Although brittle, they’re also quite strong, meaning that they are easier to transport and store. Also, glass bottles are safer than metal cans.

They won’t rust as cans do. And lastly, glass bottles are typically considered a slightly more environmentally friendly option, but is this outlook changing?

Which Is Better For The Environment? 

Which Is Better For The Environment 

Calvin Lakhan, a waste expert from Pollution Probe and York University professor, believes cans are more environmentally friendly than bottles.

According to Lakhan, “making glass is very cheap and not very energy-intensive, but the fact is that municipalities don’t want glass bottles in the recycling system.

Because they break and a lot of recycling facilities will reject them, so a lot of them don’t get recycled. (

Cans are far more energy-intensive to make than glass bottles. In some respects, though, the can is better than a bottle because they’re made from either steel or aluminum.

These materials are valuable in the recycling market, and they’re a lot easier to repurpose. Ultimately, they’re more likely to be recycled and reused than glass bottles.

So in some ways, the answer to this question isn’t so clear-cut. So, let’s take a closer look at the statistics to help us decide. 

Beer Cans: Greenhouse Gas Emissions And Other Statistics

According to the EPA, Americans generate approximately 1 billion tons of trash every year. Of that, only about 50% gets collected and recycled.

The rest ends up in our landfills, where it contributes to global warming.

So, what are the stats for beer cans specifically? Well, according to the EPA, the average American generates about 10 pounds of trash per day.

So if we assume that most people drink two beers per week, then that amounts to about 20 pounds of cans per person per year.

The greenhouse gas emissions of beer cans are relatively low compared to other types of packaging.

According to the EPA, the carbon footprint of a 12-ounce can is equivalent to driving an average car for 11 minutes.

On the other hand, the carbon footprint of bottled beer is about double that amount. 

Now, let’s take a look at landfill statistics. How many beer cans do you suppose end up in landfill?

According to Waste Management Inc., the number is around 30 million annually. That’s roughly one out of every four cans sold in America.

Beer Bottles: Greenhouse Gas Emissions And Other Statistics 

The greenhouse gas emissions of beer bottles are similar to those of canned beer. However, they’re higher than those of regular soda bottles.

According to the EPA’s calculations, the carbon footprint of one 12-ounce bottle is equivalent to driving an SUV for 4 hours.

Another thing to keep in mind with beer bottles is that they’re typically made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

PET is a type of plastic that’s widely used in food containers. It’s also considered a hazardous material by the EPA. That’s because it contains phthalates which may cause cancer.

Have you ever wondered how many beer bottles end up in landfill? Well, the EPA estimates that nearly half of all beer bottles end up in landfills.

About 40% of these bottles are recycled. But, even when they are recycled, they often end up in the wrong place. According to the EPA:

“Recycled beverage container products are usually mixed with other recyclable items in a single bale.

If your municipality doesn’t have its own sorting facility, the bales must be taken to a central location for sorting.”

The Final Verdict

So, which is better for the environment: beer cans or beer bottles? Well, there are definitely pros and cons to both options.

However, it may surprise you to learn that beer cans could well be the better option.

Even though beer cans take a lot of energy to produce, overall, they have a lower carbon footprint, and their materials are high-demand and widely recycled.

Although beer bottles can be recycled, many of them end up in the wrong places, making them far less environmentally friendly than the average trusty beer can! 

Andrew Carr
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