Water bottled in PET 50% more sustainable than in glass with long transport lines

by: Mirjam Visser, 2012-09-03 14:13:38 UTC
Sustainability Aspects: My motivation for design for sustainability came from wondering what was better to pick one or the other.

The Story


A few years ago, while living in Shanghai, I stood in a supermarket to buy sparkling water. Since not many chinese like to drink the stuff, they also are hardly producing it. And for one reason or the other at that point in time there was no LaoShan water available in Shanghai. So the options were all types of Belgium bubble water in PET bottles, 1.5L each or Italian glass bottles of 3/4L. Ridiculous to ship bottled water around the world but hey sometimes you long for something ….sooo much.

My sense was, the 1.5L is lighter so better to transport the 8000km or so as well as carrying in home on my bike. And I decided to google for it upon arrival. You find anything on Google right? Not the answer on this one. So a few months later I found Joosts Vogtlaenders tables and Pre’s Ecoinvent trial software and calculated the outcome which you can now find as a sample under LifeCylceAnalysis on this site. If you look at the results you notice the biggest impact comes from transport because of the long distance and the fact that over 99% of the weight is water which in itself has a relative low environmental load compared to its weight. If you would look at other products like electronics the impact of material would be much higher and the relative impact of transport much lower. For instance for a TV or computer the transportation would be in the few percentages. So going local makes a difference for sustainable products like food and drinks or very heavy stuff like concrete, building materials which can be made from local sourced materials and not so much for high tech.

Being a Master of Science in Engineering Industrial Design, although I didn’t do much designing since, I then thought it awfully difficult for a designer to decide which solution is more sustainable than the other. How to balance all different criteria? And often sustainable reality is contra to our sense of feeling. For instance most people think natural materials are more sustainable than plastics and that is not the case; the environmental cost of, even, organic cotton is higher than fleece, which is often made of recycled PET bottles. Wool and leather have a high ecocost as well. And if we are looking for decoupling economics (every poor person should have a better income) from environmental burden (the planet cannot take more) is it enough to be resource or eco efficient? Likely not. We need to willing, out of free will, to spend more on less resources because they are used in products that are using less energy, are more fun to use and more lovable so that we don’t throw them out. Can they be upgraded with more functionalities? And can their parts be reused after the total ended its life? If we have products and services like these we buy less with higher quality and in the end less resource consumption than in the case of only buying on the cheap and disposable. It is increasing quality of life.

Product: Packaging
Designer: na
Manufacturer: na
Category: Packaging
Websites: www.design-4-sustainability.com/life_cycle_analyses/5-glass-bottle-versus-plastic-bottle


by Mirjam Visser

Comments by our Users

Be the first to write a comment for this item.


@ D4S, a platform by designers for designers, sharing ideas and knowledge on sustainable design
Learn more |  Leave Feedback
We are not-for-profit and want a trustworthy, independent site without advertisements.

If you like to use D4S please donate to enable us to pay hosting fees and extend the site. Thank you for your support!
Join us on LinkedIn