As a Certified Aromatherapist®, I get asked all the time about glass, plastic, and sustainable packaging. The questions always circle back to the same point: what is the best packaging, how does it affect the environment, and why did you choose the packaging you use? In this post today, I'm going to address some surprising truths and myths about PET plastic, and give a couple reasons why Ampersand will actually be making the switch to PET plastic soon! Enjoy!
What exactly is PET plastic?
PET plastic, or Polyethylene terephthalate, is a clear, strong and lightweight plastic that is used in a variety of fields. It is created from ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, which are combined to form a polymer chain¹. This material is made into small pellets that are melted and molded into all different sorts of shapes and sizes. When you stretch this material in two different ways, you can also create the same material used to make video, photo, and packaging films!
How does PET plastic differ from glass?
Glass is a sturdy and heavy material that is made from sand, soda ash, limestone and raw materials found in nature². These materials are put under an immense amount of pressure and then melted down at high temperatures to create glass that is then molded into desired shapes and sizes!
When Ampersand Essentials first opened its doors, the obvious answer to the question of what materials we would be using for packaging was glass. Before being fully educated in the Aromatherapy industry, I was, admittedly, under the impression that glass was the only option for packaging materials when it came to essential oils. I was told that essential oils eat through any materials other than plastic, so I thought this was the only way to go.
However, after graduating from The School for Aromatic Studies, I learned that PET plastic is actually safe for essential oils due to the materials used that prevent essential oils from eating through it! It was actually highly recommended by my professor that PET plastic be used in applications such as lotions, creams, butters, and salves because it was much easier to dispense products out of bottles such as squeeze bottles for lotion.
After doing more research into PET plastic, costs, sustainable practices, recycling rates, and carbon footprints, I was shocked with my results.
So which is better? PET or Glass?
After doing extensive research into this question, my results honestly left me questioning what I had learned in the past about the Aromatherapy industry.
According to PETResin.org, PET plastic is actually the most recycled plastic in the United States and worldwide³. It can be completely, 100% recycled through washing and re-melting, where the old bottles and materials are melted down and remolded into the new shape! And the old type of use of PET does not determine what it needs to be used for in its new life. Recycled bottles don't have to be used again for bottles - they can be used for automotive parts, new bottles, clothing, and so much more!
The thing that many people push for when it comes to glass is by focusing on the overall environmental impact per kg of glass, but they do not account for the weight and packaging that glass requires when shipped and stored.
According to Ecochain, the overall environmental impact per kg is indeed lower for the glass packaging. However, the weight of the glass makes a big difference. Transportation is a big factor of this: From the raw material to the bottle, to the finished product – each step of the supply chain includes significantly higher weights for transportation. In fact, the weight of a glass bottle can be up to 40x the weight of a comparable PET bottle⁴.
Because of this, when you apply this factor into the overall comparison, PET scores lower overall in its lifecycle than glass does. While the depicted comparison is based on CO₂ impacts, the environmental cost indicator (that contains more than just CO₂ impact), shows an even bigger difference: Here, PET is an improvement of up to 80% towards the glass. Again, the significantly higher weight of the glass jar leads to a much higher impact⁴.
So what are you doing about it?
We understand that this information can be extremely difficult to process, and can be met with a lot of pushback. And that's okay! I'll be honest, it was really difficult for me to accept this truth because of all the false information that's out there.
But that's what I'm here for! I'm here to clear up controversies and misinformation that's on the market that directly affects you, the consumer. With this new information, we decided at Ampersand Essentials to slowly transition to PET plastic containers in an effort to do better on our carbon footprint, and to encourage recycling our bottles as much as possible!
And you know what? That's not the only reason why we decided to do this. If we are being completely transparent, we received feedback from clients and customers that sometimes they don't want to purchase our products because they don't necessarily want glass around their children. We just had a client the other day drop one of our bath salt jars and had it shatter all over her kitchen floor. And that's definitely not safe for children, pets, or even ourselves!
Because of this transition, you will notice more and more design and marketing changes coming to our site. As we grow, we want to morph into exactly the vision we originally had for this company: to be approachable, affordable, and easy to use. We want to lower our carbon footprint, and with PET plastic actually having a lower carbon footprint than alternative materials such as glass⁵⁻⁶, we thought this would be a great first step to take!
So let us know what you think. We are excited and willing to hear your feedback because we want to do our best to serve you. Our product offerings might be changing, but the quality certainly won't be; we are here for you, and we love you!
Stay safe y'all,