Should you choose plastic or glass containers?

With the environmentally aware times that we live in at the moment, there is so much talk about plastic and how bad it is for the environment. While I agree with all of that, I am also living another reality that requires it in certain circumstances where my children are concerned.

This photo of a family cleaning their massive window together might look all instragramy and beautiful but I was asking – why do they all need to wear gloves? What are they using to clean that window that is so bad for their skin? What happens after they’ve cleaned it and the baby that is currently sleeping comes out and starts licking the clean window? Is everyone going to freak out about the poison that the baby is now ingesting? Not really the story I want for my family! So I choose to make our own cleaning products that are natural and safe for everyone in the house. I also want everyone in the house (including the children) to be able to use these products safely.

My first attempt at packaging my natural cleaning products

I distinctly remember when I first started converting all my commercial toxic cleaning products to homemade natural solutions. As a mum and a scientist, I knew I had to do some research. My investigations only confirmed what I thought I already knew – plastics need to be phased out and glass needs to replace it as much as possible. Plastic can leach the chemicals that it is made of into the contents of the container and the production of the plastic container uses up valuable resources such as water. Glass containers do not degrade over time, so last longer and use up less resources. Both plastic and glass can be recycled and reused.

I went out and bought glass spray bottles and started collecting and repurposing glass jars. It was all going well until I was cleaning the windows one day and my then 2 year old kids wanted to help. “Of course” I said. However within 5 minutes my glass spray bottle was smashed on the floor and I was trying to carry two barefoot kids out of danger and keep them away while I cleaned up the mess.

This was not what I wanted to happen on a regular basis while they were learning to hold onto things and not knock things over (they’re now 4 and a half and this phase hasn’t ended yet). I also didn’t want to tell them that they weren’t allowed to help me clean ever because imagine in 10 years time I knew I wanted a couple of 12 year olds who would know how to help me and be willing participants in times of cleaning – more like this photo.

Plastic was safer for my kids (for now, at least)

There are some things that I can use glass jars for – my creams, roller bottles and storage in the pantry – however, I knew I was going to need some good quality sustainable plastic bottles for any of the cleaning sprays that I wanted the kids to participate in for at least a few years. So back to the drawing board (AKA the internet). I found out that if you choose to use plastic bottles for your DIY sprays for functional reasons, like me, make sure it is HDPE (also known as plastic number 2) because it has stronger bonds and longer polymer chain lengths so essential oils cannot break it down. PET (plastic number 1) bottles also have similar properties and will not react with essential oils.

If it has to be plastic: recycle, reuse and repurpose.

Our society should not be creating new plastic. I found plastic bottles made from recycled plastic that I could simply reuse over and over by refilling whenever they emptied. This is an option that I can offer clients that have young children in the house that will be in the vicinity of the cleaning bottles or actually using them. Everyone should be reusing or recycling the plastic we already have and using alternatives wherever possible and practical. If you see all my cleaning sprays in the DIY Kits come with a plastic container, however, if you have no reason to need an unbreakable bottle, you can just as easily choose to use a glass bottle, such as these below.

However, glass is definitely better!

As stated previously glass doesn’t degrade over time and doesn’t leach any of its components into the contents of the container, so it is definitely better. I use glass in everything except the cleaning products that the kids will use. For example my son has his own ‘bug spray’ that he can access whenever he spots a bug inside the house. Having something safe that they can use empowers them, which is my ultimate goal. If parents and children feel empowered, then there is nothing they can’t do!