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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Wednesday January 18, 2006
06:41 AM

worse is better?

[ #28396 ]

I wondered, which uses more oil to get manufactured and delivered to me - a glass bottle of brown sauce(*), or the same volume of sauce in a squeezy plastic bottle?

The plastic bottle is made from oil, but it's lighter so takes fuel to transport to me. It's also thinner, so I assume that you can fit more in the same vehicle, which will also increase the efficiency.

I'm assuming that the energy used to manufacture both wasn't oil. If it is (or if you take total fuel costs instead), I'm not sure which process uses more. In theory I can recycle both bottles, but I think that only glass recycling is effective around here. (Not sure how many classes of things are being collected to get people used to it, but the downstream technology isn't there yet). But glass recycling was always more about keeping landfills tidy than saving resources, as IIRC the energy differences are negligible between recycling glass and new glass, and it's not like we're running out of sand in the world.

* You may substitute tomato ketchup in the bottle in your mind if you prefer. But I am not you, so prefer not to.

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  • IIRC the energy differences are negligible between recycling glass and new glass, and it's not like we're running out of sand in the world.
    That's not just it. I'd prefer not to fill the world with broken glass bottles, if you don't mind.

    What always surprised me is why "they" seem to be so reluctant to recycle metal. Surely, cleaning up metal out of metal objects can't be harder than mining and cleaning it up for the first time, can it?

    • I was told (so this is just a rumour being repeated) that, because of the original OPEC oil price cartel causing much higher shipping prices, Japanese car companies switched to using a much higher proportion of recycled steel in the 80's for a while, but then they switched away from that because of a much greater tendency for the body to rust on those cars. (The story was told to me in the early 90's when I was commenting to the owner of another Toyota that his had the same sort of wide-spread rust as mine
  • That there is only one product on the truck. All things considered, maybe it's just easier to wonder about bird flu and the average speed of an african swallow :)
    • I don't think that it does matter if there are multiple products on the truck. If the pallet (or even just box) of bottles is smaller or lighter, then potentially more things will fit in the same shipment, which is good.

      I'm not sure that wondering about African swallows is the same, as knowing the answer to that doesn't really affect whether I get bird flu, or allow me to reduce my risks.

  • Plus, glass can break during shipment, so they need to make extra product.

    The most resource efficient method would be to have large vats of sauce at the store so you can bring back your own bottle or container and refill when you need it. But I think single-serving packaging has taken over for good.
    • We have a chain of stores called "The Bulk Barn" that have products in large boxes or vats, you fill a plastic bag or carton with the product and pay by weight fir the amount you want. The chain has been around for a long time - the one near me was there when we moved in in '86 - and does a good deal of business, but only a small fraction of the business that the standard grocery store next to it does.