Plastic vs Glass vs Metal Water Bottles: Comparison, & Which Is Best?

In this guide, we compare the pros and cons of plastic, glass, and metal (stainless steel and aluminum) bottles.

We also look at which material of bottle might be best from a sustainability/environmental, cost and practical perspective. 


Summary – Which Bottle Is Best?

Ultimately, which bottle is best comes down to how exactly you measure ‘best’ (there’s many individual ways to do this), and what your individual preferences are in a bottle.

But, it’s understandable people want a quick, clear answer. 

So, these are our own interchangeable rankings, from best to worst, of the best bottle options overall: 

[*These rankings are generalised in nature, and are only based on the research and references provided in this guide]


1. Not using a new bottle at all

For example, if you are at home, you can fill a cup you already own with filtered/purified tap water

Another option is re-using an existing bottle as many times as possible instead of buying a new bottle.

Repurposing it it in some way may increase sustainability


2. The best new bottle option might be a recycled Food grade #304 or 18/8 stainless steel bottle, that is recycled when disposed of, and is used at least 500 times

A Food grade #304 or 18/8 stainless steel bottle may be best to prevent leaching, and to prevent a metallic taste of the beverage inside

Being made of some recycled material may reduce the production footprint, and recycling the bottle after using it at least 500 times may be beneficial from a sustainability standpoint

Recycling of the metal means that not as virgin material might be used in the recycled bottle.

The manufacturing of new stainless steel is one of the most energy intensive processes along with aluminum, and stainless steel is said by some sources to pollute at a rate 10x higher than regular steel

Extended use gives the production footprint a chance to be averaged out over the lifetime of the bottle

From a practicality standpoint, stainless steel is usually durable and practical over the long term and 

You may want to make sure the stainless steel bottle you buy isn’t mixed with aluminum, doesn’t have a plastic liner, and has been tested for lead.

If the bottle comes with a lifetime guarantee, that’s even better.


3. Aluminum may be next best, but can be tricky to place amongst other bottle materials

According to several estimates, new aluminum has a higher lifecycle footprint than stainless steel

Also, several sources indicate the lining of aluminum may contain BPA (because it’s the main ingredient in the epoxy or enamel used to prevent aluminum bottles reacting with acidic liquids).

But, several studies indicate that using recycled aluminum instead of new aluminum has only a fraction of the energy, emissions and resource footprint.

Metals might get extra points for practicality and durability of use over most types of glass.

A BPA free, leaching tested, reusable aluminum bottle made of recycled material, that you use more than 500 times, might be the second best option after stainless steel.


4. Reusable, recyclable, BPA & BPS free hard plastic bottles might be next best, as long as you use them as many times as you can

You may get the benefits of a lower production and transport footprint that plastic provides, along with lower leaching and health risks

But, the one downside is that plastic may eventually lose it’s integrity and economic value once it has been recycled too many times, and has to be turned into long term plastic fill, sent to landfill or burnt/incinerated.

So, disposability and recyclability may be an issue here for some types of plastic


5. Glass bottles might be next best, specifically Borosilicate glass which might be be higher quality than soda lime glass.

Glass tends to have a production footprint on par with or slightly higher than plastic according to some estimates

The use of a furnace for melting glass can require a lot of energy and fossil fuels in particular

Using recycled glass cullet in some types of new glass products can reduce energy requirements and environmental footprint.

Some glass may lose points though for high transport/delivery costs and footprint due to the weight of glass, and the economic and systematic difficulties of recycling some types of glass in some places.

Glass also has potential fragility and breakage concerns, and it can’t be taken everywhere, such as public pools.

Glass may shoot up the list to as high as first or second place if it can be recycled effectively, if breakage and practicality of use isn’t an issue, and the weight of the glass or the transport/delivery footprint and costs aren’t an issue.

Glass usually has the advantage over plastic and metals in that it doesn’t usually leach under any circumstances and maintains purity of flavor

However, glass also takes the longest to naturally degrade of all materials on this list, and broken glass can be an issue for recycling or a hazard in the environment or in public.

So, glass has some significant pros and cons to consider on either side of the spectrum.


6. Disposable and single use plastic bottles might be the clear worst option if you use them frequently

They lead to higher costs for the consumer over the long term (if you have to keep buying them compared to a refillable bottle than can be filled up), a higher waste footprint, and higher pollution and littering rates, amongst other issues.


Variables & Factors That Impact What The ‘Best’ Bottle Materials & Types Are

Picking the ‘best’ bottle material and type will always vary depending on the variables at play in an assessment

Some of those variables include but aren’t limited to:


– The individual indicator or measurable 

For example, from a sustainability perspective, you could measure, emissions, air, water (fresh water, and ocean) or soil pollution, resource depletion and scarcity of resources, impact on humans and human health, impact on wildlife, waste generated, ease of waste management, water use and consumption, energy usage, economic impact and impact on employment, practical usage of the bottle, or some type of other indicator.

Using plastic as one example, plastic might be cheap to make, transport and buy, but, it may rate poorly in terms of litter and plastic pollution indicators.

Another example is that stainless steel may rate poor in terms of energy usage in production, but have good recycling potential and be very practical to use because of it’s durability, or it may be less prone to breakage than a glass material.


– Personal preferences i.e. what is most important to an individual

For example, some individuals may prioritise eco friendliness and sustainability measurables

Other individuals may prioritise cost and practical considerations

Some individuals may be vary wary of potential health concerns such as BPA leaching 


– Whether ‘best’ is being determined for individuals, businesses or society overall separately 

Businesses for example may find certain types of bottles far more cost effective, profitable, and logistically easier to offer than other types of bottles

But, these bottles may have lower recycling rates and be worse for the environment than others

Individuals may prefer certain types of bottles that are sustainable and practical, but these sorts of bottles may be less profitable for businesses

The bottles that are best for society overall might not be good for businesses or individuals, because they may lack practical traits that make them easy to use, and may not be profitable for businesses to offer


– Some bottles with a mix of materials can be hard to assess

Some water bottles are made of a combination of materials

One example of this is a glass inner bottle with a hard plastic protective sleeve

Another example is a stainless steel bottle with a plastic lid, or that contains a mix of stainless steel and aluminum.

These different types of bottles and mixed bottles can make assessment difficult, because it’s not a matter of simply assessing one material. The different materials used have to be assessed, and they each have to make up a % share of the overall sustainability footprint

There are many types of bottles on the market such as glass, stainless steel, aluminum, plastic, insulated, bottles with flavor chambers, bottles with outer sleeves and tubes, disposable, collapsible, and so on. 

This can make things difficult to assess.


– The manufacturer’s individual production processes are a variable in themselves

Different manufacturers ultimately design, make and deliver their bottles in different ways

This changes the sustainability footprint of each bottle product from each manufacturer

An accurate sustainability assessment requires research on each individual company and product


– Waste management in different cities

Different cities have different waste collection and waste management (landfill, recycling, and incineration) systems and facilities

This can impact factors like recycling rates.

Also, just because you put something in your recycling bin, it doesn’t mean it will be recycled.

You may need to research the effectiveness of recycling of certain materials or items (like bottles) in your area to check how likely it is something gets recycled.


– Behavior of the consumer

Not all consumers have the same behavior

As just one example, one consumer make sure to take good care of their reusable bottle, and it may last several years

But, another consumer may be more careless with their reusable bottle, and may lose it, or it may be unusable after a period of months

Different consumer dispose of their bottles in different ways too


– Whether cleaning of reusable bottles is included or not

Something that is not often considered with reusable bottles (especially in life cycle assessment studies) is washing/cleaning these bottles with hot water or a dishwater.

Washing with cold water and not in a dishwasher, or with hot water, may cut down on lifetime energy consumption, water use and pollution.

There is water usage component to reusable bottles to consider, as well as any cleaning products used


– Overall

Ultimately, a life cycle assessment may need to be done on each individual company’s product, and the local conditions for waste management for where the product is used and disposed of, to get the most accurate assessment of which bottle might be best.

There can be continually changing variables and factors with different products, materials, companies, locations, waste management systems, and so on.

Just as one example, how many times you reuse the bottle matters for metals because of how energy and resource intensive they can be to produce.

The more times you use them – the more the production footprint averages out over the lifecycle of the bottle. 

The above and below information is moreso general information that may be used as a starting point for consideration for each type of bottle.


Moving on to the potential pros and cons of each bottle type and bottle material …


Pros & Cons Of Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles come as disposable/single use plastic bottles, as well as the harder and more durable reusable plastic bottle options.

Each one has a different sustainability footprint.


– Sourcing Of Materials

Plastic generally comes from fossil fuel feedstock, and can use additives and plasticisers.

Petroleum and methane are considered non renewable, and some may question whether we will run out of fossil fuels like oil or natural gas (used as a feedstock for plastic) anytime soon.


Plastic manufacturing starts off with [refining and processing of crude] oil and natural gas [so, ultimately relies on mining, and relies on a non renewable resources] (


– Production

Plastic and plastic bottles have an energy footprint, carbon footprint, and water footprint to consider.

Some reports indicate plastic has a better production footprint than aluminum and steel across some indicators.

PET/PETE may be one of the most commonly produced plastics.


PET or PETE … is the clear plastic used for most [disposable] soda and water bottles (



[In Australia, overall] plastic [recorded] the greenest results in production and manufacture [compared to aluminum and stainless steel].

[It was found that] plastic bottles have around 80 per cent less impact on the environment than the worst performer in all three categories: water use, global warming and solid waste.

Although the metals can claim bonus points for recycling, they never recover from the huge investment of energy required in their production processes.

[In Australia, when comparing plastic to stainless steel and aluminum, it’s interesting to note that plastic consumes] 8.2 per cent of the energy used in the manufacturing sector, but contributes only 1.4 per cent of the carbon emissions 



[In terms of energy consumption, …] the energy required to produce one [disposable] plastic water bottle is equivalent to filling the bottle ¼ of the way with oil … Unlike tap water which is distributed through energy efficient infrastructure, producing bottled water involves burning vast quantities of fossil fuels …

[In terms of carbon footprint, …] By the time a bottle of water makes it to a store near you, it has a total carbon footprint equal to 82 grams (or 3 ounces) of carbon dioxide …

[In terms of water footprint, …] Producing plastic water bottles also exhausts water resources, taking over three times as much water to produce a bottle of water than the contents of the container itself 


– Transport & Delivery

Plastic can be much cheaper to deliver and transport than glass because plastic is far lighter as a material, and continues to get lighter.

The flexibility of plastic also helps with packing efficiency compared to a material like glass.

Plastic is also less fragile than some glasses.


Plastic bottles [are] 40 percent lighter today than they were 20 years ago (


– Waste Management, Recycling & Re-Use (Downcycling)

Overall, the recycling rate of plastic is lower than some major metals across various countries

Also, some plastics can’t be continually recycled, whereas some metals can.

When recycled enough times, some plastics may lose some of their integrity and quality, whereas metals don’t face this issue.

Plastics that aren’t recycled may go to landfill, or end up down cycled into secondary uses.

In terms of landfill, plastic may take up less space in landfills than some other materials.


From There’s a 27% recycling rate for plastic bottles [specifically compared to plastic as a material in general] in America 


From [In Australia, re-usable] PP bottles are less likely to be recycled as there isn’t a kerbside scheme devoted to just this type of plastic [and, plastic type PP has a lower recycling % than PET] 


From If no additives are used, PET bottles can be recycled back into PET bottles … Otherwise, they get “downcycled” into carpeting, clothing, and other fibers 


From [On an individual level, plastic bottles have been re-used as] plant pots, salt shakers, lighting fixtures, irrigation, and even walls for a greenhouse [in some countries and States] 


– Recycling & Re-Using Plastic Bottles vs Producing New Plastic Bottles

Recycling plastic bottles may have a similar carbon footprint to glass bottles according to one report, but another report says in general, it may be less expensive to make plastic bottles or convert them into secondary uses, rather than recycle them.



… [the general view from some governments worldwide is that] plastic managed well can be as good as glass.

With recycling, downcycling and incineration plastic has a similar carbon footprint and does no harm to the environment

[In terms of the carbon footprint …] If single use plastic bottles are made of 100% recycled material the carbon footprint will be 30% less [and around 9.5% of bottles are recovered currently]



… With current technology, it’s less expensive for companies to produce new plastic water bottles than it is for them to recycle used bottles.

Converting plastic bottles into carpet and apparel is less energy-intensive and laborious than converting it back into food-grade drinking bottles … [and] degradation of the plastic material [is a problem in the current recycling systems] 


– Environmental Impact & Pollution

Glass and plastic may take longer to break down & degrade in the environment than other materials

Plastic bottles and plastic bottle tops are some of the most littered items in society.

Plastic pollution in general may be a bigger issue than the pollution of most other materials.

Micro plastic pollution, leaching of plastic additives, and plastic ingestion and entanglement may be some of the issues caused by plastic in the environment 


Plastic bottles might take 70 to 450 years to decompose in landfill sites, compared to 1 to 2 million years for glass bottles, compared to 200 years for aluminum cans (


– Human Health

Plastic may contribute to a range of potential human health issues.

Specifically in bottles, some are concerned about BPA.

Having said that, plastics are available that don’t contain BPA.



[The chemical BPA is used in some water bottles than contain] polycarbonate plastic [and a major study linked low levels of BPA exposure to some health impacts for humans].

[Some national food regulators say] BPA poses no significant health risks at the low levels that migrate from plastic packaging into food and drink.

[As a solution to BPA concerns -] PP (code 1) and PET (code 5) plastic do not contain BPA and have no known health hazards.

If you are concerned about BPA, a number of brands now make ‘BPA-free’ plastic reusable bottles 



Though BPA has been banned in some plastic products — such as baby bottles and sippy cups — its often replaced by a chemical called BPS that may also be toxic, as well as harmful.

Check labels carefully, and look for the number “7” printed in the plastic, as this can be an indicator of BPA content (


… plastics made with BPA will often have a resin code of 7 appearing on the item (


– Economic

Globally, we spend over $100 billion every year on bottled water

The amount for the total plastic industry is in the trillions


– Usage & Practicality

Soft plastic can dent and lose it’s shape or scrunch up when in use, whereas hard plastic and reusable plastic water bottles last far longer and keep their shape far better


[Plastic bottles have lifestyle benefits including being more] lighter and more flexible (


– Re-usable vs Single Use Plastic

[Re-usable plastic is better than single use plastic environmentally] (


– Bottled Water vs Tap Water

… many water bottle distributors use tap water to fill their bottles, and the truth is, tap water is better regulated than bottled water in terms of safety requirements … [so people are buying water they get for free and buying bottles that produce waste] … (


– Countries That Use The Most Bottled Water

The US is one of the worst per capita plastic bottle users in the world (


– Plastic vs Glass

… plastic is much better for the environment in many cases [compared to glass] (


Pros & Cons Of Glass Bottles

– Different Types Of Glass

There are different types of glass with different properties, traits, and benefits and drawbacks.

Borosilicate, and soda lime glass are two examples of different glass types

Soda lime glass may be used for some disposable glass bottles, and borosilicate for reusable glass water bottles.



Borosilicate [used in Pyrex]… can withstand high and low temps without shattering and is lighter and less prone to break.

Soda lime glass or traditional glass are also great options that are less expensive


… borosilicate [is] stronger, lighter and handles a greater temperature range than typical glass (


– Sourcing Of Materials

Glass comes from reasonably abundant resources.

Glass can also be made from recycled glass material.


– Making Glass From Recycled Glass Material

Making glass from recycled material may cut down on energy consumption and also the carbon footprint of glass production.


– Production In General

Glass production can use a lot of energy in the process of melting glass and using a furnace that burns at high temperatures.

Plastic bottles may beat out glass bottles across several sustainability indicators at the production stage.


… manufacturing [a] low weight PET bottle is [the] equivalent to manufacturing a glass bottle, which is heavier, causing carbon emission that’s similar to a PET plastic bottle (


[Some sources indicate reusable glass bottles beat out reusable plastic bottles across abiotic materials, water usage, and GHG emission indicators in production/manufacture … but the lighter weight of plastic compared to glass bottles means they may be more sustainable when looking at the total sustainability rating] (


– Transport & Delivery

Glass is usually heavier than plastic and also metal bottles, so it can cost more to ship and transport/deliver to where it needs to go.

There may also be more fuel used, as well as greenhouse gas emitted from increased fuel use.

Glass also may not make as efficient use of packing space as plastic and some metals.

Glass may also require more packaging in transport because of it’s fragility and potential to break.


Glass bottles [though] … are 40 percent lighter today than they were 20 years ago, which means it takes less fuel and produces fewer emissions to transport them (



A 500mL glass bottle weighs about 400g, but a comparable 500mL PET bottle, cartoon or aluminium weighs about 10g … that 40 to 1 weight ratio is a very big problem for manufacturers and distributors.

It means more wear and tear on packaging machinery, less efficient shipping and distribution, and, as a result, higher fuel costs and emission responsibility 


– Waste Management & Recycling 

Soda lime glass bottles may be recycled at higher rates than borosilicate glass bottles.


Common soda-lime cullet [is] made from [recycling glass] bottles and jars (


The UK currently recycles around 50% of [soda-lime-silica] container glass (like bottles and jars) … [compared to other types of glass like borosilicate glass, lead glass and glass fibre that are not widely recycled] (


Glass is a fully recyclable material that can be recycled in close loop over and over again … This is particularly true for glass bottles which on average have a recycling rate varying from 50% to 80% (


There’s a 33% recycling rate for glass bottles in America (



Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.

An estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles … [and] A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as little as 30 days 



The advantage is that glass can be recycled almost infinite times. At least with non-clear glass …

According to a study … 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% 


– Pollution 

Glass can take a long time to degrade in the open or in landfills – up to 4000 years. Having said that, glass may not have the residue and pollution concerns of plastic

When glass is littered though, broken glass can be more of a health and safety hazard for humans and animals than plastic in some ways

More pollution is created in the manufacture, shipping and recycling of glass than plastic according to some reports 


– Human Health

Glass generally doesn’t leach chemicals or have BPA issues like plastic might


[But, you might want make sure a glass bottle you buy has been] tested for lead and cadmium content (



… [the best glass bottle might be a] BPA-free borosilicate glass water bottle for yourself and each member of your family.

These can be reused and they are non-porous and non-leaching, ensuring that one purchase saves years of waste and provides clean water throughout the day 


– Carbon Footprint

Reusable glass bottles may have a similar carbon footprint to a single use plastic bottle, but in general, glass might have a higher carbon footprint when considering weight.

Recycled glass bottles may have a lower carbon footprint.


Glass creates more than 6 times the global warming gases than plastic (


Reusing a glass bottle three times lowers its carbon footprint roughly to that of a single-use plastic beverage bottle (



… [one study shows that total] greenhouse gas emissions for the manufacture of the packaging and the transportation, [and] all other things being assumed equal, are 265 grams for [a] glass [bottle], 101 grams for [a] plastic jug, and 32 for [a] tetrapak.

If the glass is reused 30 times it gets closer to tetrapak but that excludes the collection and transportation back to where the milk is produced 


If glass bottles are made of 100% recycled material the carbon footprint will be 26 to 40% less [and around 80% of bottles are recovered currently] (


– Usage & Practical

Using glass bottles can come with fragility and breaking concerns if not protected by an outer sleeve or pouch

Glass isn’t allowed into some places in public such as public pools or other places with a no glass policy

Glass is generally dishwasher safe


According to

Glass is non-permeable and won’t absorb color, odor or taste ( … and there’s a reason wine and spirit bottles use glass [for purity of flavor]

Some glass bottles come with a plastic outer shell in case the bottle is dropped and broken … but glass has problems with fragility and breaking 


– Other Notes

The best alternative for your health and the environment is glass (


Pros & Cons Of Stainless Steel Bottles

Stainless steel bottles are generally reusable and not single use type bottles.


– Sourcing Of Materials

… SS uses iron ore, chromium and nickel – which all have to be mined, and processed, and metals extracted from the ore


– Production 

The production of SS bottles in general might be highly polluting and energy intensive.

The production of stainless steel bottles may be less environmentally friendly than producing plastic bottles.

Having said this, using recycled iron in SS and lighter designs can reduce environmental impact.



Producing [a] 300-gram stainless steel bottle requires seven times as much fossil fuel, releases 14 times more greenhouse gases, demands the extraction of hundreds of times more metal resources and causes hundreds of times more toxic risk to people and ecosystems than making a 32-gram plastic bottle 

… [the process of extracting useful metal from ores can also cause air, water and soil pollution] 

…producing stainless steel results in about 10 times more pollution than regular steel … [but using recycled iron, and a lighter single wall design for bottles can reduce environmental impact] 


… the manufacturing process for stainless steel bottles is unsustainable … [it] requires the processing of nickel and chromium ores, resulting in ten times more pollution than ordinary steel … [and] ore extraction is energy intensive [and releases pollutants] … (


– Transport & Delivery 

Transport of stainless steel may not have a significant sustainability footprint, and costs may be better than for glass.


[Transport of stainless steel bottles makes up only 1 to 5 % of the environmental burden … the energy used by the store you buy the bottle and producing the bottle have the biggest burdens] (


[Transportation costs of stainless steel are usually lighter than glass due to it’s lighter weight] (


– Waste Management & Recycling 

Stainless steel in general is highly recyclable – about 60% of stainless steel content is recycled material

Stainless steel can have a high recycling rate in some countries


[In Australia it is likely that aluminum and stainless steel water bottles would be picked up and recycled from kerbside recycling programs, and this can] offset some of the impacts of the original manufacture (


– Pollution 

Unlike many other metal, … stainless steel will have no damaging effects on the soil and water [when it finds its way into disposal sites] (


– Human Health

Some reports indicate stainless steel bottles may have some leaching concerns, especially if they contain aluminum.

However, other reports indicate that a stainless steel bottle that is culinary grade, lead free and that meets other requirements won’t have chemical leaching issues.


There are no known safety concerns associated with using stainless steel, assuming it is indeed stainless and lead free [so, look to see they are tested for this] (


When made from culinary grade, lead-free steel, there’s no danger of chemical leaching [from stainless steel] (



… high quality SS [like Food grade #304 or 18/8 stainless steel] means, there is no nickel leaching … [and they] should not taste metallic either.

Unlike aluminum bottles that need to be lined, SS does not need to be lined because of chromium’s unique protective layer that prevents any chemicals from leaching 



Some sources indicate metal water bottles may leach BPA [via a plastic liner or other means], [and] many stainless steel bottles are actually made from aluminum … which is linked to Alzheimer’s …

… Stainless steel bottles can leach iron, chromium and nickel into alkaline and acidic beverages 


If you choose to go steel, look for lead-free, stainless options marked as food grade #304 or 18/8, which indicates an 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel content (


Some stainless bottles actually have plastic liners inside – make sure to look for options that are plain-old culinary grade stainless steel (


– Consumer Usage Footprint

Washing/cleaning a reusable bottle may have a sustainability footprint to consider.


[Washing a SS bottle in a hot dishwasher 50 to 100 times can cause the same amount of pollution as was caused in making the bottle … whereas a cold water wash is substantially better environmentally] (


– Practical Traits

SS bottles are usually very durable, hardy, and some can come with lifetime guarantees

Some people report a slightly metallic taste with stainless steel bottles (compared to glass which has purity of flavor)


– Sustainability Footprint Of Re-Using A Stainless Steel Bottle

Re-using a stainless steel bottle many times may lead to a far better sustainability footprint.


Overall, if your stainless steel bottle takes the place of 50 plastic bottles, the climate is better off, and if it gets used 500 times, it beats plastic in all the environment-impact categories studied in a life cycle assessment (


If a steel or aluminium bottle is retained and reused for a number of years consistently, it is significantly better than a single-use, throw-away drink bottle in environmental terms, even if the PET bottle is recycled (


Pros & Cons Of Aluminum Bottles

Aluminum bottles are usually reusable, but there can be the disposable single use aluminum bottles and cans as well (used for water, soda and alcoholic beverage commonly).


– Sourcing Of Materials

Sourcing of aluminum may not contribute to depletion of resource issues, but mining may have an environmental impact


– Production 

Aluminium production is one of the most energy-intensive industries 

But, recycled aluminum material may reduce energy and carbon footprints


… [a similar product to aluminum bottles is aluminum cans, and] making a can from an old can instead of the raw material uses five percent of the energy and generates five percent of the emissions (


If aluminium cans are made of 100% recycled material the carbon footprint will be 96% less [but only 45% of cans are recovered currently] (


– Transport & Delivery

Aluminum is quite lightweight like plastic, which can lead to a smaller transportation footprint


– Waste Management & Recycling 

As a commodity, aluminum brings a significantly higher price [than glass or plastic], so much of the cost of a recycling program is actually paid for by [aluminum cans]

Today’s typical [aluminum] can contains 68 percent recycled content

Aluminum can have a high recycling rate in some countries


– Pollution

Aluminum generally has a low impact on the environment compared to a material like plastic when littered or dumped

Aluminum doesn’t take as long to break down in the environment as plastic or glass


– Carbon Footprint

Aluminum cans may have one of the highest carbon footprints of different cans and bottles.


[Medium estimates of the carbon footprint of different products are 488g for 4 x aluminum cans, 323g for [a single use] glass bottle, 250g for a single use plastic bottle, 32g for a tetrapak carton, and 24g for a glass bottle refilled 30 times] (


– Human Health

The lining of aluminum cans and bottles may have some leaching concerns in some instances, especially of BPA


… the lining of aluminum cans contains bisphenol A [so, there may be questions around aluminum bottles too] (


Aluminum bottles look like stainless steel, but are, in fact, very different. Aluminum is reactive with acidic liquids. So, aluminum bottles have to be lined with an enamel or epoxy that can wear away over time.  BPA is often a main ingredient used in epoxy …  (


– Usage & Practical Traits

Aluminum is usually harder wearing than disposable plastic, very light, and doesn’t gave the fragility issues of glass


Aluminum may not always be dishwasher safe (


– Other Notes

[For some beer brewers, aluminum cans are cheaper, more eco friendly, and can be taken places where glass bottles can’t be taken] (


– Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

One study indicates that aluminum has a greater energy and carbon footprint than stainless steel

Another study indicated that aluminum was worse than SS for water use, stainless steel was worst for solid waste generation, and the two metals were equal in terms of global warming impact. They also indicated that stainless steel was a slightly better performer than aluminium due to lower emissions from the mining of its raw materials and the production process


Further Ideas For Having A More Sustainable Bottle Footprint

Those ideas are:

– Use centralised points of beverage where possible, such as taps, that don’t require packaging and other waste

[For those worried about drinking tap water at home …] install a reverse osmosis water filter on your faucet and consider adding a water remineralizer to ensure you are not drinking sterilized water (


– Drink more with reusable glasses, cups and bottles 


– Drink from a keg or wine tap instead of individually packaged alcohol bottles


– Drink other beverages from a soda stream or single point instead of individually packed cans and bottles


– Re-use all new bottles as many times as possible


– Repurpose bottles where you can instead of or before throwing them out


– Buy as few new bottles as you can (cut rate of consumption, and total consumption)


– Buy locally made where you can


– Offer more public bottle water refill fountains and stations


– Have more bulk food and beverage stores where people can bring existing bottles, containers and storage items to re-fill


– Ban or penalise the sale of disposable bottles only where these types of bottles are completely unnecessary


– Governments can help developing nations who don’t have clean water in the long term by investing in clean water infrastructure instead of sending bottled water to these countries


– [Some companies are trying to accelerate development of bottles made partly from plants] (


It’s important to note though that initiatives like re-fill schemes can have economic, logistical and other challenges for businesses, private and public parties, so, this is something that needs proven feasibility in the long term to work effectively.


What About Boxed/Carton/Paper Based Water Bottles?

Read more in this guide about whether boxed water packaging might be better and more sustainable than bottles made of plastic and other materials.





























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