Top 10 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic



A kitten investigates glass milk bottles.
Glass isn't made from fossil fuels — it's made from sand. Right, kitty?
Keystone/Getty Images

Once upon a time, both moms and milkmen filled glass bottles with milk. Now look around your kitchen and you'll probably see many plastics — water bottles, soda bottles, food storage containers. Times have changed.

Sometimes going back in time is a good thing. Unlike plastic, which often is derived from fossil fuels, glass is made from sand. This renewable resource doesn't contain chemicals that can leach into your food or body. And it's easily recycled — whether you throw bottles in your recycling bin to be turned into new bottles or reuse glass jars for storing leftovers. Sure, glass may break if dropped, but it won't melt in your microwave.

Glass bottles and jars potentially are 100 percent recyclable, and the glass in them can be reused endlessly, without any loss in quality and purity. Glass manufacturers welcome recycled glass, because when it's used as an ingredient in making new glass, it requires less energy in furnaces. Container manufacturers and the fiberglass industry (which also uses recycled glass) together purchase 3.35 million tons (3.03 million metric tons) of recycled glass annually [source: Glass Packaging Institute].

But we could do a lot better job of recycling glass. In 2015, the most recent year for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Association (EPA) has statistics, Americans only recycled 26.4 percent of the glass containers that they used.