Fiacre O’Donnell, Marketing Manager at Encirc Glass, discusses the future of glass containers in light of the decision from Dairy Crest to phase out glass bottles in favour of plastic alternatives.

While the humble and iconic milk bottle may become a thing of the past, this doesn't reflect the industry as a whole.

The UK glass market recorded increased production figures of 2.8% in the first six months of 2014, with growth looking set to continue as consumers become more aware of the health benefits associated with glass.

Recent research by The European Glass Container Federation (FEVE) suggests that health and safety concerns are the driving force behind the resurgence of glass packaging among European consumers, with a massive 87% indicating that glass is their preferred choice of packaging.

On a global scale, the market for glass packaging is thriving due to increased demand for green sustainable packaging solutions.

Unlike plastic, glass is infinitely recyclable and does not need a petroleum-based plastic layer or other chemical additives to preserve the taste of foods and beverages, prevent corrosion or decrease gas permeability.

In the EU alone, over 70% of all glass bottles produced are recycled, saving 1.2 tonnes of raw materials and avoiding 60% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Various international governments are garnering further support for the glass industry.

For example, India is officially recognising the health benefits that glass offers and has banned manufacturers of pharmaceutical products from using PET as the primary packaging material for liquid oral drugs meant for paediatric and geriatric use, women of a reproductive age and expectant mothers.

Despite the fact that glass bottles are 30% lighter than they were 20 years ago, the weight of the final products and associated transportation costs may be seen as a reason to opt for plastic packaging.

However, it is imperative that the packaging industry takes into account the entire lifecycle of a container and the environmental consequences of its manufacture, rather than focusing on just one area of the entire process.

The recent interest in a ‘Circular Economy’ supports the fact that this is something the glass industry has been doing very well, for many years now.