The Disadvantages of Glass Packaging

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Glass bottles and jars are a common form of packaging, holding everything from peanut butter to fine wine. Glass has lots of advantages. For example it's inert, so it won't react with the contents of the package. It doesn't affect the flavor of the contents, and unless it's cracked, it doesn't let smells or fluids out. Glass is also easy to recycle. It does have its downside, however, which may make it inappropriate for your business.

Fragility

Glass is strong -- it has a firm shape and supports the contents of the package -- but it's also fragile. A strong impact can fracture a container, making it useless and wasting the contents. Metal and cloth both are better at taking a sharp blow without rupturing and leaking everything. Glass is also vulnerable to sharp changes in temperature. If you heat glass and then immediately expose it to cool water or air, that can be enough to shatter it.

Weight

Glass is heavy compared to paper, plastic or even some metal containers. Greater weight adds to shipping costs. If the company passes along the price, that adds to the costs for consumers too. For some manufacturers, this makes alternative, lighter-weight containers more attractive than glass. Although consumers prefer bottled wine, for instance, manufacturers have experimented with selling wine in cans and boxes. Other companies have tried thinning the glass they use to get the benefits of glass without the weight.

Safety

If glass breaks, it becomes much more dangerous than a torn paper bag. Glass edges are sharp enough to break skin, and it's often hard to find all the pieces. If glass shards mix with the contents of a food package unnoticed, they can do internal damage if swallowed. Even if a shopper handles the glass with care, it's possible that somewhere during manufacture or filling, a sliver got dislodged on the inside of the container and poses a risk.

Closing and Opening

Food companies can seal food inside a one-piece plastic pouch or a metal can and leave it to the consumers to get the food out. With glass, they have to find something to seal the container, such as a lid, a cork, or a bottle cap. Because there's an opening in the packaging, manufacturers and bottlers have to take steps to prevent any contamination from entering. That includes precautions that keep anyone from deliberately contaminating the products.

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About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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