Pros – Light so requires less fuel to transport, energy-efficient to make, robust if suited to application, waterproof, wipeable
Cons – Not always recyclable/downcyclable*, uses a finite resource, chemicals in plastic can leach into food, it becomes brittle over time, it can break easily if unsuited to application, it wears badly and can look ugly after short-term wear, stains badly when exposed to acid based liquids / foods.
Pros – Doesn’t last hundred of years, made from renewable resources, light so requires less fuel to transport, energy-efficient to make,
Cons – Need to be segregated from other plastics to decompose, chemicals in it may leach into food, long-term impact on soil and water is untested, typically made from GM crops and can be made from animals
Plant-based Plastic (Polyethylene)
Pros – From a renewable resource, light so requires less fuel to transport, energy-efficient to make, robust if suited to application, waterproof, wipeable
Cons – Not recyclable, not compostable, not biodegradable,
Recycled / Downcycled Plastic (including recycled synthetic fabric)
Pros – Uses up a waste product, light, waterproof
Cons – Could be contaminated, downcycling of plastic generates micro-plastics in the environment, downcycling uses up water, recycling can’t reclaim all of the energy embodied in an item so downcyclable plastic is still damaging our planet, plastic downcycled into fleece adds microplastics to our oceans with every wash.
Pros – can be recycled infinitely (except for borosilicate glass like Pyrex), is inert (chemicals don’t leach into or from it), is long-lasting if cared for carefully, washable
Cons – is heavy and so uses more fuel to transport, can break easily, requires a lot of energy to make and recycle,
Pros – light so uses less fuel to transport, can be recycled infinitely, washable, not as durable as other metals
Cons – uses chemicals as part of the recycling process if printed with images, i.e. soda cans,
Pros – lighter than glass so uses less fuel to transport, can be recycled infinitely
Cons – typically coated in BPA which some research has linked to cancer, requires a lot of energy to make and recycle
Ceramic / Pottery
Pros – is inert (chemicals don’t leach into or from it), lasts a long time if cared for carefully, sometimes repairable
Cons – prone to chipping and cracking, isn’t recyclable
Paper / Card
Pros – recyclable, compostable, from a renewable resource
Cons – easily damaged, heavier to transport than plastic so uses up more fuel, uses a lot of water during processing and recycling, chemicals often used during processing and colouring which leach into compost if composted.
* downcyclable means to remake something into a product of lesser quality than the original. Plastic can’t be recycled into a newer version of its original form, it can only be downcycled into something else like fleeces, clipboards, seating benches. Although downcycling saves the resource in the original item from being lost it isn’t a completely circular systems and does little to prevent new plastic being made to supply the demand for the original item, i.e. water bottle or food packaging.