When it comes to food storage there are two main options. Glass vs. plastic food storage – which is best?
In most instances, glass is better. However, both glass and plastic containers have different advantages when it comes to food storage, and depending on your priorities, you might prefer one over the other.
From personal preference to concerns about safety and the environment, there are many things you may consider when it comes to choosing what kind of food storage containers you want to go for.
In our research, we’ve considered the different aspects to consider and which type of storage works best in each case, and compiled them together in this article.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Glass Storage
Glass has a non-porous surface so you don’t have to worry about these chemicals. Glass is also made to withstand high heat, so you can wash it at high temperatures in the dishwasher without worrying about breakage.
When it comes to the environment, glass is definitely the better option. If discarded, glass containers are 100% recyclable, while some plastics can’t be recycled.
With glass, you may have concerns about how carefully or carelessly you handle your luggage, because the container may break if the impact is too heavy, which makes it inconvenient as a storage option when transporting it around.
Though it is possible to stack your glass containers on top of each other, there is the risk of damage or breakage, and this could result in your food being wasted as well as you running the risk of cutting yourself on glass shards.
Glassware usually needs to be laid out on the shelf to keep from breakage, so they often take up more space.
From an aesthetic perspective, glass looks more sophisticated and elegant than plastic. If your storage shelf is visible, you may want to use glass containers because they look more put-together than plastic.
If you serve your food in the containers you stored it in, glass also looks more elegant. Glass containers are also transparent, which makes it easier to see inside them without removing the lid.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Plastic Storage
Studies show that of the 6300 metric tons of plastic waste in 2015, only 9% was recycled. Plastic containers that can be compared to glass are those made of recycled plastic, but since plastic often can’t be recycled, this amount is very small.
Plastic can actually be bad for your health – especially plastic containers. Even with BPA-free plastic, toxins and chemicals that can cause disruption in your endocrine system can move into your food when put in the microwave.
When it comes to moving around and packing your lunches, there is no doubt that plastic is the better option. Plastic is much lighter than glass, and also easier to carry. It also remains safe no matter how hard the impact is, which makes it a lot better for carrying around.
Plastic is, therefore, also better for kids who would need a sturdy box for school lunches, especially for younger kids who may not be very careful with their belongings.
If you’re the type of person who likes to keep all parts of your lunch separate, plastic boxes are the better option. Plastic boxes usually come in sets with different sizes, which makes it much easier for you to section off your lunch.
Even when putting your food in the fridge at home, the different sized boxes are good for organization.
When storing leftovers, it is a much better idea to choose glass over plastic. One reason, we already mentioned above – plastic containers release chemicals when they’re heated. However, they also release chemicals when at colder temperatures, so even if you move your food to a plate when heating it up, you may be putting yourself at risk by storing your food in plastic containers.
Glass containers are made to be freezer and refrigerator-safe, so they don’t release chemicals when cold. Glass storage containers are also made to be leak proof, with tight seals to keep the food from going bad or spilling.
For containers that are easier to store in the freezer or fridge, glass is your option.
If you have limited storage space, plastic is better and can be stacked around efficiently to save space.
Even when you’re storing the containers themselves – you don’t have to worry about keeping your plastic containers laid out on a shelf, and can put all the lids in one container for efficiency. You also don’t have to worry about the containers falling over and breaking, since plastic is very durable.
In fact, some plastic containers are also made to be retractable, which makes them more compact, and reduces the amount of space they take up during storage. If your aim is to save space, plastic is definitely the better option.
Plastic tends to discolor after some time, and some food stains tend to be permanent, which can make the boxes look dirty. Some plastic containers also absorb smells that can’t be removed, and you can avoid these by using glass containers. From an aesthetic perspective, this does not look very nice.
Therefore, what kind of containers you choose greatly depends on what factors you consider most important. In most cases, people will usually have both kinds, each used for different kinds of items. Some people will have glass containers for storage at home while they will use plastic containers for traveling.
For the most part, glass containers do seem to work better for food storage, so when considering glass vs plastic food storage, glass is the clear winner. However, based on your preferences and requirements, you may prefer plastic.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker