Plastic bottles with a bad health reputation

Plastic bottles with a bad health reputation

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Concern about pollutants leads to the renaissance of the glass bottle

After the share of glass bottles on the German beverage market declined over the years, they experienced a renaissance last year, according to information from the German Environmental Aid (DUH). "German consumers are increasingly buying mineral water in reusable and environmentally friendly glass bottles," said the DUH. In many cases, the trend towards the glass bottle may be due to the fear of pollutants that could be removed from plastic bottles and absorbed with the drinks.

"Reusable glass bottles do not interact with the contents," which is a clear advantage over drinks in single-use plastic bottles, "in which chemical compounds can contaminate the drink," reports the DUH. Back in 2009, ecotoxicologists from the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main had already demonstrated that numerous mineral waters contain substances that act like hormones. The researchers also found that at least some of the environmental hormones came from plastic packaging. "We compared mineral water from glass and plastic bottles and were able to show that the estrogenic load in water from PET bottles is about twice as high as in water from glass bottles," explains the Frankfurt toxicologist Martin Wagner. "When we started our work, we did not expect to find such massive estrogen contamination in a food that is subject to strict controls," stressed Wagner.

Increasing demand for reusable glass bottles The scientists cite, among other things, “the leaching of plastic additives, such as plasticizers, out of PET bottles” as the cause of the hormone-like substances in mineral water and therefore return to the glass reusable bottle. "In the first quarter of 2014, their sales increased by three percent compared to the previous year," reports the DUH. At the same time, the sale of disposable beverage packaging at large discounters, such as Aldi and Lidl, has decreased for the first time in many years. "The reusable quotas for beverage packaging are stabilizing and even growing because quality and environmental protection are playing an increasingly important role for consumers," emphasized Jürgen Resch, Managing Director of DUH, adding: "Many customers have lost the desire for water from cheap single-use plastic bottles . "

Reusable bottles with a relatively small market share Although the glass reusable bottles are enjoying new popularity, their overall market share is extremely small. Reusable plastic bottles are more common. And overall, according to the DUH, the proportion of reusable bottles is only around forty percent. A large part of the drinks are therefore delivered in disposable beverage packaging. "Political support is still required to achieve the legally stipulated target of 80 percent ecologically advantageous beverage packaging in the packaging ordinance," reports the DUH. However, the increasing concern of the population about possible pollutants in plastic bottles could have a positive effect here, since glass bottles remain as an alternative and these are usually designed as reusable bottles for mineral water and the like.

Tap water as an alternative In addition to mineral water from glass bottles, plain tap water is a good way to prevent impending pollution from hormone-like substances in the plastic bottles. If necessary, carbon dioxide can also be added to the tap water by means of appropriate household appliances, if this suits the individual taste more. Frankfurt toxicologist Martin Wagner explained that no corresponding environmental hormones were found in tap water. In addition, tap water is "1000 to 5000 times cheaper, does not have to be packed, filled with high energy consumption and transported and does not cause waste", Martin Wagner emphasized in an interview with Frederik Jötten for the "Kölnische Rundschau".

Deliberate avoidance of plastic bottles The toxicologist also made it clear that the leaching out of chemicals is time-dependent or that more and more substances can pass from the plastic packaging over to the contents. In addition, the amount of transition of substances increases with temperature. In the heat, for example, acetaldehyde would be released from the plastic of the plastic bottles. Ultimately, from a health point of view, everything seems to speak against the use of plastic bottles and the use of glass bottles. However, the weight advantage of PET products remains, which makes production, delivery and purchasing much easier and originally had a significant share in the success of plastic bottles. Even if the glass bottles are now experiencing a slight renaissance, this is not to be equated with a general departure from plastic bottles. However, it becomes clear that apparently more and more consumers are worried about possible substance inputs from the PET bottles and therefore consciously decide to buy glass bottles. (fp)

Image: Thomas Meinert /

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