There are many benefits of aluminum beverage cans over glass bottles. Aluminum cans are much lighter, are recycled more abundantly, and offer superior protection against UV light compared to glass bottles. The sustainable advantage of cans over bottles should be a significant factor in any decision-making process, but they’re also better for profit margins.
Aluminum cans are better for both the beverage they contain and the environment in which they’re made by a large margin. The cost and energy savings—from manufacturing, shipping and filling, transporting filled cans, and eventually recycling them back into the supply process—are considerable.
Aluminum cans are typically made of 73% recycled material, compared to 23% recycled content for glass bottles and less than 6% for plastic containers. Aluminum is recycled at a much higher rate than glass or plastic—20% more often than glass bottles.
Aluminum cans require much less packaging than glass bottles or other alternatives, reducing the amount of energy spent in the production of cardboard as well as preventing further deforestation by reducing the demand for paper products.
Energy-Efficient Aluminum Cans
The sustainable advantage of cans isn’t limited to shipping. Logistical benefits can further improve the profit margins of both a beverage producer and its customers. Through increased efficiency in both warehousing and point-of-sale storage, aluminum cans further minimize their carbon footprint by requiring less space to store and by being easier to cool than glass bottles.
They can be stacked much more densely, and because the average thickness of an aluminum beverage can is thinner than a human hair, they can be chilled to serving temperature much more quickly than beverages in glass bottles.
Post-consumer, aluminum is a clear winner again—by an even more impressive margin. A recent report by EuroNews compared the energy savings when recycling a metric ton of glass and when recycling the same weight in aluminum. Recycling glass saves 42 kilowatts of energy and 54 cubic feet of landfill space. Aluminum, when recycled, saves 14,000 kilowatt-hours and 270 cubic feet of landfill space.
In terms of fossil fuels, the savings are more pronounced yet again. Recycling glass saved an estimated 91 liters of oil—about 24 gallons. Recycling aluminum saved 6,545 liters—or over 1,700 gallons—of fossil fuel consumption.
Benefits of Aluminum Cans over Glass Bottles
- Aluminum cans can be filled much more quickly because of their shape, increasing efficiency.
- Aluminum cans are cheaper to produce, contain significant recycled content and have a much smaller carbon footprint than glass bottles.
- Bottles are difficult to stack without stabilizing packaging—cans can be stacked easily, saving space and reducing packaging waste.
- Cans provide superior protection against UV light and oxygen contamination.
- Aluminum cans are much cheaper to transport and require less fuel when compared to glass bottles.
Aluminum vs. Glass: Which Is Better for Shipping?
Aluminum cans are a better option than glass bottles when it comes to shipping rates by a wide margin. Cans reduce package weight on average by 40% compared to glass bottles, which reduces transportation costs both from the container manufacturer to the brewery and from the brewery to market.
There’s more than one way to increase profit margins—loss reduction is a significant factor. Due to their fragile composition, glass bottles are much more prone to loss due to breakage or other accidents than aluminum. Opaque, light-proof aluminum cans also provide superior protection from the effects of UV light. Aluminum cans reduce spoilage and ensure delivery of a high-quality beverage to the consumer, with all the benefits of its light weight.
A 12-ounce capacity can is considerably lighter than a glass bottle—less than half an ounce for aluminum versus eight ounces for glass—but shipping rates aren’t the only savings in this scenario. The lighter weight means much less energy is used to transport beverages in aluminum cans, making their carbon footprint much smaller than other alternatives. In fact, aluminum cans result in significantly less greenhouse gas emissions during their lifetime than either glass or plastic containers.
Aluminum: Eco-Friendly, Efficient, and Profitable
A beverage will travel from the brewery or canning facility where it is packaged to warehouses or distribution facilities where it will be stored before eventual transport to the point of sale. Because of their high stackability, aluminum cans reduce shipping costs and costs associated with warehousing.
Fewer labor hours are needed to load and unload pallets of canned beverages compared to glass bottles, which also reduces the amount of consumed energy. The same is true on the front end, where retailers can store and move canned beverages more easily and efficiently.
The benefits of cans over glass bottles or plastic alternatives are evident. Cans are more cost-effective, better for the environment, have increased ease of handling—and are more widely preferred by the consumer.