Craft Beer in Plastic Bottles? Here’s Why That’s a Bad Idea
While enjoying a crisp craft beer at home, you typically reach for a bottle (made from glass) or a can (made from aluminum), right? What about plastic beer bottles
Although the craft beer industry has undergone numerous changes during its packaging evolution, there’s a new concept that’s being closely reviewed — beer-friendly plastic bottles. Is this a revolutionary idea or a problematic concept?
Some Companies Are Considering Plastic Beer Bottles
In certain areas where glass may pose a danger, such as a large public event, select corporations have offered plastic bottles in the past. However, for the most part, plastic beer bottles in the United States is practically unheard of. This makes us wonder, well, why is that?
Plastic is a light and cheap alternative to many materials, but if it was a superior option, wouldn’t breweries have already maximized this opportunity? As stated in this FOOD & WINE article, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery out of North Carolina, will begin to use PET bottles due to the controversial use of BPA liners in cans (a hot topic of debate since the FDA considers this compound to be safe).
In contrast, the beloved Sierra Nevada Brewery stated that although they’re in favor of a BPA-free liner, they continue to support the use of cans for many reasons, including their lower carbon footprint, portability, recyclability, and enhanced protection (in relation to both oxygen and light).
Using Plastic Beer Bottles Isn’t Ideal — Here’s Why
Yes, plastic is lightweight and do not break easily, which is ideal for transport. However, do these pros outweigh the cons? As stated above, there are a number of reasons why aluminum cans are used for beer — especially in terms of maintaining the product’s quality.
When it comes to a beer’s taste, plastic is quite porous. Not only can this impact taste, but plastic is believed to make beer (and soft drinks) become flat sooner than aluminum or glass. Also, plastic cannot withstand the pasteurization process. Since cans and bottle are often subjected to high temperatures in order to kill any remaining microbes, this process would cause plastic to warp.
Then, of course, there are the environmental implications. Once again, yes, plastic can be recycled, but that does not make it a superior choice. Ban the Bottle is a great example of how organizations are advocating for the ban of one-time-use plastic bottles. In this case, water bottles. After all, it is estimated that plastic bottles take more than 450 years to break down (and up to a million years if sitting in a landfill).
When it comes to environmental concerns, recyclability is not the only variable. In order to produce plastic bottles, an immense amount of energy and resources are required. Not only does the production of plastic require an immense amount of oil, but also water. As stated in this 2013 study, for every 1 liter of bottled water produced, 1.39 is used. In terms of treatment, sanitization, and bottling, the process-driven water use ratios would likely be even higher for beer production.
In comparison, approximately 70 percent of aluminum cans are made from recycled aluminum. This material continues to be the most recycled material in the world. Aluminum also requires a lot less energy to produce, making it a more sustainable option. When thrown away outside of a landfill, aluminum cans take between 80 to 200 years to break down and 500 years within a landfill.
Based on the points above, especially in terms of a beer’s quality, most established breweries will likely continue utilizing the benefits associated with aluminum. What may seem like a pivotal moment in the craft beer industry will likely fade, as aluminum and glass have both proven to be superior options for nearly a century.
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