Matches versus lighters: which is more envionmentally friendly?
August 28, 2008 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Which is more environmentally-friendly: matches or lighters?

That is, regular matches versus your average disposable plastic lighter. And what if we throw a refillable lighter into the mix?
posted by chrismear to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
I'd say matches because they are primarily made of paper (renewable resource) vs the lighter made from plastic and gas (non-renewable resource), and because of the waste involved after each is spent; the matchbook can be burnt or broken down much more easily than the lighter. I think the refillable lighter is marginally better but matches would be the best.
posted by rmless at 6:28 AM on August 28, 2008

I would guess a refillable lighter, considering that there's no packaging or wood to deal with. And I wouldn't be surprised if match production results in some kind of toxic by-product.
posted by PTCHFRKR at 6:29 AM on August 28, 2008

Best answer: Matches win here.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:35 AM on August 28, 2008

If you go by the actual materials involved, cardboard matches are the best because they use a renewable material as the fuel rather than fossil fuels.

The problem is the real environmental impact depends on the process for producing and shipping the materials. Even if using a match doesn't use any petroleum products, the factory producing them and trucks shipping them certainly do.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well with refillable lighters you also have to take into account that if it's going to be used more than once it's going to require purchase of a separate product that will also result in waste. I'm leaning towards the matches on this one. My complete off-the-wall guess is that a lighter is much more inefficient regarding the amount of energy used to make it and use it compared to matches (with matches also having the added benefit of being made from a renewable resource).
posted by genial at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2008

Just quickly considering the manufacturing processes, and the fuels used, I would guess matches.

Cardboard/paper is plentiful, and at least somewhat biodegradable in most forms.
posted by aleahey at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

The impact of either has got to be so insignificant as to not matter. Imagine the amount of lighter fluid you burn over the course of one lighter's lifetime; there's what, maybe 50mL of butane, and it takes you a few weeks or months to go through it (assuming regular use) -- meanwhile you fill up your car with 50L of petroleum, one thousand times as much, in the same amount of time.

In that sense I would go with matches purely because they tend to be wood or cardboard, rather than plastic, and will therefore decompose in landfill instead of hanging around for 500 years. But don't make a big deal out of it. Pick your battles, and all that.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2008

This is definitely a guess, but I'm thinking secondhand Zippo (or similar) and either the biggest butane container available or, better, a refillable container of some kind.
posted by box at 6:41 PM on September 6, 2008

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