eli5 Why are glass bottles not used more for soft drinks if plastic is such a nightmare for the planet?
They were used. In 1960s pretty much everything was [cardboard and glass](https://preview.redd.it/woolworths-sydney-au-1960-an-entire-supermarket-with-v0-b5tvda77zf4a1.jpg?auto=webp&s=baa9898db313f77697b083fa7cb5fe240c8d3219)/metal. Just like in the case when paper bags were switched to plastic to “save the trees”, most drinks were shipped in glass bottles. Then when plastic became a cheaper alternative (pet bottles were invented in 70s), everyone switched to it because costs were lower. See a relevant plastic bottle [commercial](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCrkFIqZOys) from 70s.
Everything other people have said is absolutely right (consumers would rather buy it in a plastic bottle). But there is a widespread misconception that glass bottles are always better for the environment.
Since glass recycling is basically melting the glass and making a new bottle, this takes quite an amount of energy.
If the glass bottles are transported far distances, they need much more gasoline, since they are heavier than plastic. So if you don’t have a regional bottling plant as well as a regional glass recycling plant, plastic bottles are “less worse” than glass bottles.
I work in the industry, and at our plant, the cheapest overall option is cans, second cheapest is PET bottles, and on a very distant third, glass. I don’t expect other companies to have reached significantly different conclusions than we have.
Cans cost more per liter of beverage than plastic bottles, but can be stacked denser than plastic bottles, which means more drink per truck, more drink per forklift, and of course takes up less storage space in our warehouses. This makes them come out on top overall vs plastic. Plastic is of course more sturdy, and many customers like resealable containers.
Glass is less sturdy than plastic, holds way less beverage per pallet, and weighs significantly more. This means we would need to drive more trucks, and that each truck would be more heavily loaded.
These factors lead to much higher emissions, which are also bad for the environment, and this is before we even start including the energy costs of producing glass bottles. Even if you reuse them , which often isn’t the case, a glass bottle would need to be refilled dozens of times before it saves energy vs making ultra cheap alu cans or pet bottles. If the glass bottle gets too worn out, chipped, or smashed to bits in a forklift accident (this happens pretty often) before its been reused that many times, it’s a net loss
The glass pollution at my local lake is so bad I would be happy if they just outright banned glass bottles. Aluminium cans would be far better and easier to recycle.
Because plastic bottles are way cheaper to make than glass bottles, and also lighter and thus easier to haul around in bulk (not to mention that plastic doesn’t break the way glass does). This means that for the end consumer a drink in a glass bottle is always going to be more expensive than the same drink in a plastic bottle.
Unless, say, plastic production gets taxed into oblivion, but then we all would just have to contend with more expensive drinks altogether.