Olive & Oil 03/10/2011

Glass, PET, tin plate or stainless steel?

A lot of materials can be used to package extra virgin olive, but these have different proprerties. More options has ever, but glass is still the best, despite its fragility

Different packaging materials can be used with extra virgin olive oil, so that producers have more options with respect to the recent past. The reasons in favor of a solution are manifold, including the cost, the aspect of the packaging and therefore the marketing issues, but also the healthiness and impact of the package on the life and characteristics of the product, and last but not least, the environmental impact, in terms of energetic costs for its production and disposal.
We take a look at the different possibilities on the market.

GLASS: the most common material, completely inert, very poor heat conductor, very fragile. It can be transparent, which is little indicated for extra virgin oils, or dark, with various tones of green, which can protect the content from the light. Rather cheap and easily recyclable. Today all bottles must contain a minimal percentage of recycled glass. It can be modeled, so that bottles can present different shapes, including personalized ones.

TIN PLATE: this is a rather old technology, an iron plate on which a thin layer of tin is deposited. If this layer is applied by electrolysis, the material is called tinned band steel. Unlike glass, this container, which is quite common for quantities larger than 1 liter, is quite robust. Despite its resistance, hits can cause damage to the thin tin layer, so that the oil comes in direct contact with the iron, which in turn cause the metallic defect. It is a cheap and recyclable material, not as flexible as glass from an artistic point of view. Tin plate containers can have a parallelepiped or cylindrical shape.

PET: PET or Polyethylene terephthalate, is a polyester, and precisely a thermoplastic resin containing phthalates which are suited for contact with food. It is little utilized with extra virgin olive oils in Italy, but very common in Spain and several other markets, such as the USA. It is normally transparent or opaque white, which is more suited to oil. It is cheap and shatterproof, without the limitations of tin plate. PET bottles, like glass, can be personalized. It is now under observation because phthalates are considered toxic and carcinogens, although food packaging materials are tested to avoid particle release in the food, but the most health sensitive consumers do not trust it.

STAINLESS STEEL: they are low iron and carbon alloys which combine the mechanical properties typical of steels and peculiar resistance to corrosion, thanks to the presence of chrome. Almost all vats for oil conservation are today in stainless steels, but a company from Florence decided to launch a stainless steel bottle on the market. Notoriously shatterproof and non toxic, it is little moldable and presents also the limit of a very high cost with respect to other materials.

di Graziano Alderighi