Materials Mobility

171: Light weight glass bottles


Heavy glass requires more energy to transport it.


In 2013 Rawlings of Bristol, England, the leading independent glass packaging specialist, with a strong heritage and reputation for sustainable quality, was selected by social enterprise to deliver on the challenge of developing the lightest weight glass bottle for mineral water in the UK.

Belu was founded in 2004 by film maker Reed Paget as an environmentally friendly bottled water business. Reed launched the UK’s first compostable plastic bottle in 2006. Now Belu want to take the next step.

In the 1950s, S. Donald Stookey of the Corning Glass Works had accidentally invented Vitrelle, a lightweight tempered glass product consisting of two types of glass laminated into three layers, which could be used not just to make the nose cone of a missile but also to contain a casserole in both a refrigerator and hot oven. A typical Corelle dinner plate measured 10 in (26 cm) in diameter and weighs 12.5 ounces (355 gm).

Rawlings now teamed up with Owens-Illinois (O-I) in Toledo, USA who had developed a revolutionary new process that substantially reduces the amount of glass needed to reduce the weight of the previous lightweight 1.6 pint and 0.6 pint (750 ml and 330 ml) bottles both by 7 oz (20 g). Rawlings trademarked this as Ethical Glass.

To translate this weight saving into potential environmental gains, Belu have been able to save 937 tons (850,000 kg) of glass annually, equivalent to 2.1 million wine bottles and reduce their carbon emissions by 11%, the equivalent to saving the same amount of carbon associated with 7,000 nights in an average-sized UK hotel.

In addition to the bottle’s impressive environmental credentials, a royalty of up to 4 cents has been donated to WaterAid for each bottle purchased from Belu so enabling the company to generate over US$ 6,350,000 (£,500,000) helping more than 38,000 people without water.

Ethical Glass has not been retained exclusively for Belu – it is also being made available to other mineral water companies in a bid to lower the industry’s carbon footprint. (

Verallia which produces about 16 billion glass bottles and pots for 10,000 clients around the world have produced their Ecovà range up to 30% lighter in weight. With the production of a billion containers, Ecovà has saved 100,000 tons (91,000 tonnes) of raw materials and has reduced CO2 emissions by about 18%, including transportation.

Another approach is to make the glass (literally) greener.

Glass produced from recycled scrap (or “cullet”) creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than glass made from raw materials. According to a study conducted by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), switching from clear glass to green cuts packaging-related CO2 emissions by 20%.

This is due to the higher recycled content in green glass bottles, which is as much as 72.4%, against an industry standard of 28.9%. The study also revealed that bottling gin, white wine and brandy in green glass had a negligible impact on consumers’ perception of taste, and increasing the recycled content of the glass actually improved consumers’ opinion of both retailers and the products.

Discover Solution 172: Bottle factory

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