Unbreakable plastic glasses are made from three different types of plastic — polycarbonate, Tritan, and polypropylene. Drinkware made from acrylic plastic, acrylic blends, and other plastics aren’t as durable as these three. When shopping, you’ll find the words “break-resistant,” “shatterproof,” or “unbreakable plastic glasses” on labeling and in product descriptions — but these terms don’t tell the whole story.
We’ve specialized in plastic drinkware for nearly two decades now, and we’re often asked if so-called unbreakable plastic glasses are really unbreakable in daily use. Luckily, we have an easy answer. Yes! Some types of plastic glasses are truly unbreakable — but you have to know what you’re buying.
Here are the three types of plastics to look for when shopping for unbreakable plastic glasses, and some of our Faves in each.
1. Polycarbonate: Unbreakable Plastic Glasses that Look Like Glass
When it comes to looks and overall performance, plastic glasses made from polycarbonate plastic top the list. Polycarbonate plastic glasses are unbreakable, have glass-like clarity, are dishwasher-safe, and will last for years in household and commercial use.
In both consumer and commercial tests, polycarbonate is slightly more durable than Tritan plastic — especially when it comes to scratch-resistance. Because of this, polycarbonate plastic glasses are widely used in hotels and restaurants for outdoor and poolside service — so you know they’ll hold up at home.
Strahl Plastic Drinkware is the top-rated brand for polycarbonate plastic glasses and here are some of my Faves from this line:
Dishwasher Tips for Polycarbonate plastic glasses:
In tests, polycarbonate plastic glasses perform well in most dishwashers up to 140-150 degree water temperatures. However, some high-end (Bosch, Miele) and Energy-Star dishwashers heat the water in excess of 160-degrees. To keep polycarbonate plastic glasses looking good for years, avoid using high-heat cycles.
Fun Fact About Polycarbonate Plastic
Ultra-tough polycarbonate plastic is used to make all sorts of durable goods like motorcycle windshields, bulletproof glass, and shatterproof eyewear lenses. It also recently celebrated its 70th birthday as a consumer-use plastic. Polycarbonate plastic is definitely a proven product.
2. Tritan: BPA-Free Unbreakable Plastic Glasses that Look Like Glass
Tritan plastic is a newer type of plastic developed specifically as a BPA-free alternative to polycarbonate plastic, which contains BPA. If you want BPA-free unbreakable plastic glasses that look like glass, Tritan delivers — and many top plastic drinkware lines use it exclusively.
In glass-like clarity, overall durability, and price, polycarbonate and Tritan plastic glasses are very close competitors. In use tests, Tritan plastic glasses are slightly more scratch-prone than polycarbonate items since Tritan has a softer surface. However, Tritan glasses tend to withstand higher dishwasher temperatures than polycarbonate items.
More Information on BPA-Free Plastics
As far as the FDA is concerned, the “BPA-free plastic debate” is more media and marketing hype than scientific fact. Some experts (usually funded by the Tritan plastic manufacturers) say that BPA plastic drinkware can be unhealthy due to potential for bisphenol-a (BPA) leaching. However, the the FDA and other industry groups have not substantiated these claims in independent research. You can learn more about this in our Guide to Plastic Tableware Recycling Numbers & BPA
3. Polypropylene: Unbreakable Plastic Glasses in Casual Styles
Polypropylene plastic glasses are more casual than the glass-like varieties crafted in polycarbonate and Tritan. These unbreakable plastic glasses are generally low-cost, can be solid-colored or semi-opaque, and come in a wide variety of colors.
Polypropylene plastic glasses have a different feel than glass-like polycarbonate and Tritan drinkware. Polypropylene plastic drinkware is softer and slightly rubbery by comparison — think Tupperware and Rubbermaid plastic storage containers. Glasses made from polypropylene plastic tend to be popular for kids’ drinkware and casual looks.
Other Types of Plastics Used to Make Plastic Glasses
Plastic glasses made from acrylic plastic and an acrylic blend called SAN plastic are also popular, economical, and very durable. However, glasses made from these plastics aren’t quite as tough as ones made from polycarbonate, Tritan, and polypropylene. The biggest difference is acrylic and SAN plastic glasses can crack if dropped on tile or other hard surfaces.
Though less durable, you can find many plastic drinkware options in both acrylic and SAN — including colorful and decorative styles. Plus, SAN is extremely scratch-resistant and withstands higher dishwasher temperatures. Glasses made from these plastics also tend to be reasonably priced, so they’re economical choices for busy homes, restaurants, outdoor dining, and entertaining.
Notes on My Testing & Assessment of Unbreakable Plastic Glasses
As a professional buyer, I’ve sourced plastic glasses and tableware for over a decade for both consumer and commercial customers. I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to plastic glasses. My assessment of an “unbreakable” item is one that will not break under normal household, restaurant, and hotel use — such as when dropped on tile floors, or knocked around in the sink or dishwasher.
Excessive force, such as dropping from a 10th floor balcony, is not normal use — and dangerous to those below! I can’t promise plastic glasses (or unwitting victims) will survive if you decide to test them this way.
Though, I must admit, in a crazy moment I did test Strahl brand plastic glasses by dropping various glasses from a 4th floor balcony onto a concrete pool deck below — and they didn’t break! Strahl plastic drinkware simply rocks when it comes to durability!
Learn more about this standout collection and the best deals we found on our Faves! Strahl Unbreakable Plastic Drinkware review.