From left: Environment and Mahaweli Development Ministry Promotions and Environment Education Director Gamini Wijesinghe, Piramal Glass Ceylon PLC CEO/Managing Director Sanjay Tiwari, BBDO Lanka Managing Director Santosh Menon, National Poison Centre Toxicology Department Head Dr.Waruna Gunathilaka, Consumer Affairs Authority Consumer Affairs and Information Director Chandrika Thilakarathne, City Analyst R. M. G. B. Rajanayake and Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon, College of Chemical Sciences Honorary Joint Secretary Dr. A. A. P. Keerthi
Pic by Indraratne Balasuriya
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Sri Lankan citizens should pay more attention to their health and use glass containers to store and serve food and beverages, Believers in Glass, a movement to improve glass usage said.
“Glass is better when storing or serving food and liquids. Glass bottles are also safer for babies than plastic,” National Poison Centre Toxicology Department Head Dr. Waruna Gunathilaka said.
He said that many Sri Lankans ask the National Poison Centre whether lunch sheets, plastic bottles and rigifoam containers are harmful.
“Lunch sheets are a petroleum by-product. How are they safe? We usually serve hot food. When placed on lunch sheets there’s a possibility of chemicals mixing with our food. With plastic bottles, when they bend or are bruised, there are chances of chemicals mixing with the liquid,” he said.
Dr. Gunathilaka said that the chemicals released by these containers may be carcinogenic, and the processes are accelerated due to the hot weather in Sri Lanka.
Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon, College of Chemical Sciences Honorary Joint Secretary Dr. A. A. P. Keerthi said that glass is inert in day-to-day scenarios, only reacting to temperatures exceeding 1,500°C.
“From a chemist point of view, an interesting concept is the surface area to volume ratio. The smaller the volume packaged, the larger the ratio is. So when storing extremely dangerous drugs or food, it is important that the packaging remains inert,” he added.
City Analyst R. M. G. B. Rajanayake said that if glass is used for storage, customers can observe if the food or liquid has gone bad.
“Glass will protect food from UV light, and will not react with solvents or other chemicals. It can be reused and recycled,” he noted.
While the health benefits of using glass may be evident, the safety aspect is still in question. Glass can break easily and cause injuries to both children and adults.
Garbage collectors are also averse to handling broken glass, while improperly disposed glass could be found everywhere, especially covered up in playgrounds or school premises, ready to cause injuries.
However, Piramal Glass Ceylon PLC CEO/Managing Director Sanjay Tiwari, whose company is the country’s only glass bottle and container manufacturer, and the sponsor for Believers in Glass, said that his company collects the same volume of glass for recycling that it produces daily.
He added that the cost to manufacture a similar sized bottle of plastic costs the same as glass.
“But the percentage of glass usage is higher in other parts of the world, compared to developing Asia, where people tend to use other materials,” Tiwari said.
Consumer Affairs Authority, Consumer Affairs and Information Director Chandrika Thilakarathne added that high-end consumers and hotels prefer using glass due to its ability to be customized in shapes and colours.
Believers in Glass, with its motto Food loves glass, so should we, has created a Facebook page, which has garnered 5,000 likes over the past 2 months, while the videos it had uploaded had gotten 235,000 views.