With many of the most innovative “glass”ware hitting the market frequently being made from Polycarbonate (polycarb) Plastic or Perspex, it’s time to take a look at the advantages of the various types.
We’re going to look at 4 different factors: feel, weight, safety & innovation. By analysing the differences between the different types of drinking vessel in each category, we can start to see the value each type of material brings.
Glass — that reassuring solid and cool surface that we all know. Variable between something that feels like it it would break at the slightest tap (the ultra-thin Martini glasses) and a heavy rocks glass that will probably be around still long after we’ve gone!
Polycarb — You might well be surprised. Especially when looking at the higher-end of the plastic market, especially with manufacturers like Strahl, the plastic glasses are almost indistinguishable from their glass counterparts. Plastics don’t quite have the same feel as glass but then again…cars drive slightly differently to carriages, that’s called progress. Polycarbs can now be frosted, for example, and many have a higher specific heat capacity than glass (they stay cooler for longer).
Glass — Weight is often synonymous with strength but with advances in material technology this is no longer the case. There is something very reassuring though about a thick-bottomed and very weighty rocks glass. The downside is that with that weight comes higher cost (both monetary and environmentally) for transport, distribution and manufacture.
Polycarb — Especially with high-end plastics, the weight can be similar to regular glasses which is very useful for venues limited for licensing reasons to plastics but who want their customers to enjoy a similar experience to traditional glass. Many of the characteristics in terms of strength, feel and heat capacity can now be achieved in a lighter glass with polycarbonate, reducing the carbon footprint for transport.
Glass — In today’s litigious society, safety is never far from the mind of most operators. Every month there is a story about a pending court case or serious injury from broken glass (either intentional or unintentional). The fact is, glass is very sharp when broken on the scale of a sharp knife and can cause some serious injury. With the advent of toughened glass, the number of glass breakages have reduced but we recently had a debate whether it was better to be hit with a regular or toughened glass. The camp was split between a toughened glass not breaking (and almost certainly knocking you out) or a regular glass breaking and thus absorbing the energy but with the risk of cuts…sounds like a rock and hard place scenario.
Polycarb — Plastic glasses are incredibly safe. There is a reason why the authorities sometimes impose their use on busy bars, especially around sporting events. They don’t shatter into sharp pieces, there is a certain amount of elasticity in the material which absorbs energy and when used as a weapon have far less lethality than glass. They are also far less likely to chip into small shards of glass, creating digestive problems. For the operator then, it’s a no-brainer to use polycarb where they can.
Glass — With glasses having been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, you would think that innovation has taken its course. Far from it though, there are still advances in technology making them safer, thinner and more useful. Especially in terms of temperature with advances in borosilicate glassware (think Pyrex) glass can handle increasingly more extreme temperature ranges. Unfortunately this innovation still comes at a steep price.
Polycarb — Given the flexibility of plastics and the rapid technological advances, the innovation within this material science is quite astonishing. With many options for colour, opacity, strength, thickness, thermal properties and texture the possibilities are really endless. At JetChill we have been able to create a number of different glasses for use with Dry Ice at a fraction of the cost of regular glass, while still retaining all the important characteristics bars, restaurants and clubs demand. Out of a survey of operators we conducted in the U.S., more than 97% of respondents felt that polycarbonate glassware wouldn’t be an issue in creating innovative serves in their venue. Given that the polycarbonate is so easy to wrap or print on and you have a real winner in terms of innovation, branding and safety.