Glass, the premium packaging for environment, health and taste

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Glass is confirmed to be the most popular food packaging among consumers. It lends itself to reuse as well as recycling. And it shines both in chemical safety and in preserving the organoleptic qualities of food, as seen for tomatoes and wine.

Sales of glass-packaged foods grow

Consumer preferences are well represented by food sales trends. For wine, beer, and sauces, 85 percent of sales are absorbed just by those packaged in glass. With significant growth rates over the last three years (2016-2019) for both sauces (+17 percent), beers (+16 percent) and wines (+13 percent).

Fruit juices in glass bottles are also going strong, up 10 percent from 2016 to 2019. This is revealed in an analysis conducted by Professor Guido Cristini of the University of Parma on behalf of Assovetro, entitled ‘The contribution of glass packaging in the enhancement of food&beverage categories. Implications for large retailers‘.

The sustainability of glass

A champion of circular economy, as it is reusable as well as infinitely recyclable, glass used in food packaging is increasingly eco-friendly.

Vases and bottles have been redesigned with energy conservation in mind. Compared with the 1990s, the weight of individual packaging has been reduced significantly. To the extent of 18% for the sparkling wine bottle, 13% the baby food jar,12.1% the oil bottle. Overall, for the production of bottles and jars, energy consumption has halved and related emissions have decreased by 70%, comparing with 40 years ago.

Separate collection and recycling have in turn experienced steady growth. 85.9% of households in 2018 submitted glass for separate collection (up 35% from 10 years earlier). And the recycling rate reached 76.3 percent (up 6.6 percent from 2017). Thus saving 3.395 million tons of virgin raw materials, 320 thousand toe (tons of oil equivalent) of energy and 2.082 million tons of CO2.

The role of Italian industry

The Italian industry is second in Europe in the production of glass bottles and jars. 16 industrial groups, 39 factories, 7,100 employees to which 12,000 are added in allied industries. Two billion euros annual turnover, with significant investments (€ 200 million/year, or 10%). Of this, 41 percent (€ 82 million/year) is dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of production.

‘Environmental sustainability is an issue that consumers today feel particularly invested in even when choosing a product at the supermarket. This wind in favor of glass as sustainable packaging must demand our commitment more than ever. And the European glass industry has already set a goal: to reach 90 percent average rate of glass collection for recycling by 2030‘ (Marco Ravasi, Assovetro, president of the glass container section).

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".