A Comprehensive Guide for Temperature-Controlled Packaging Disposal

Welcome to TempAid’s guide for responsible disposal of temperature-controlled packaging. We understand the challenges of managing packaging materials, including frozen foods, meal kits, pharmaceuticals, etc. As advocates for a more sustainable future, TempAid is committed to continuous innovation, and this guide is meant to serve as a valuable resource to address the complexities of proper disposal.

This guide covers everything from general disposal guidelines to specific instructions tailored to products unique to TempAid. While it aims to be comprehensive, it remains a dynamic resource we will update as necessary as new TempAid products become available and recycling resources are located. 

Visit this guide regularly for the latest insights and recommendations as we collectively strive for a greener, more sustainable future.

Know What Kind of Packaging You Have

The first question about packaging disposal is: Can you throw them in the garbage, or is there some particular disposal method for it?

While this sounds simple, before you bid farewell to any packaging, it’s crucial to check the packaging for any specific disposal instructions. In cases where packaging provides no specific instructions, we advocate erring on the side of caution.

Standard Gel-Packs

Generic Gel Packs
Gel packs come in many shapes and sizes.

It’s important to note that most gel packs are designed to be non-toxic and safe for use with food, pharmaceuticals, and other sensitive products, but always check the product information or packaging for specific details on the composition of the gel pack being disposed of. The exact formulation of the gel can depend on the manufacturer and the intended use of the gel pack.

TempAid Gel Packs come in several varieties, some designed for unique purposes (i.e., food versus medications).

If the gel pack consists of water:

  1. Thaw the gel pack by leaving it out at room temperature.
  2. Cut open a corner of the pack and squeeze the gel into the sink or toilet.
  3. Dry the plastic film and bring it to a designated plastic bag drop-off.

If the gel pack contains anything other than water:

  1. Thaw the gel pack by leaving it out at room temperature.
  2. Cut open a corner of the pack and carefully squeeze the gel into the garbage. Avoid washing them down sinks or toilets, as it can cause drain clogs.
  3. Rinse the plastic film thoroughly.
  4. Dry the plastic film and bring it to a designated plastic bag drop-off.

Note:

  • If not taking the plastic film to a drop-off, you can dispose of the gel pack in the garbage.
  • Be mindful of local recycling guidelines for plastic film and other materials.

EarthWise Gel Packs

EarthWise Drain Friendly Gel Packs from TempAid
EarthWise Drain Friendly Gel Packs

These environmentally friendly gel packs contain an all-natural gel refrigerant safe for pouring down a household drain or flushing in a toilet. The coolant does not impact pipes and is safely processed within municipal wastewater or home septic systems.

While the heavy-duty plastic pouch is durable and capable of being cleaned and refrozen for repeated use if you need to dispose of them:

  1. Thaw the gel pack by leaving it out.
  2. Cut open a corner of the pack. 
  3. Squeeze the gel into the sink or your toilet. If disposing in the sink, run the water first.
  4. Rinse the plastic film thoroughly.
  5. Dry the plastic film and bring it to a designated drop-off location. It can be recycled anywhere #4 low-density polyethylene plastic is accepted.

Water blankets

TempAid water blankets
TempAid Water Blankets

Our water blankets are food contact safe and contain only water. To dispose of them:

  1. Thaw the water blanket by leaving it out.
  2. Since they have several “pockets,” each containing water, carefully cut open or puncture each pocket.
  3. Pour the contents down the drain.
  4. The outer film may be recyclable with plastic bag collection points at many supermarkets. However, some water blankets are composed of composite plastic which may not be accepted. Unless you know the plastic is marked as recyclable, and you know the plastic number, don’t assume it is always recyclable.

Standard Styrofoam Coolers (aka EPS / Expanded Polystyrene)

Standard Styrofoam Cooler
Standard Styrofoam Cooler

The typical cooler has limited options, one of which is to dispose of the cooler and EPS components through an EPS recycling channel. These may be limited in some areas, but here is a helpful site with a map of EPS recyclers:  https://www.epsindustry.org/recycling-map.

The best option is to reuse the cooler as much as possible or switch to one of the biodegradable options offered by TempAid.

EarthWise Biodegradable EPS Coolers

Biodegradable EPS Cooler from TempAid
Biodegradable EPS Cooler from TempAid

Most discarded plastics end up in landfills. Microorganisms found in these landfills are the key to the biodegradation of TempAid expandable polystyrene resin. Thanks to a unique additive, this revolutionary grade of EPS interacts and biodegrades with the resin’s chemistry to break down the polystyrene at a molecular level, just like the anaerobic conditions found in biologically active landfills.

Learn more about these products here. Due to the unique nature of these types of coolers, please contact our team for more information on EPS Biodegradable packaging disposal.

EarthWise Cellulose Insulation Disposal

EarthWise Recyclable Insulation
EarthWise Recyclable Insulation

The cellulose insulation is manufactured using clean Double-Lined Kraft (DLK) and panels are certified for curbside recyclability by Western Michigan University but are not compostable.

To dispose of them:

  1. Remove the cellulose panels from the corrugated box to ensure proper sorting at your local material recycling facility. No cellulose and Kraft paper separation is required for these panels to be placed in the blue bin.
  2. Consult your local municipality for instructions on recycling requirements in your area. 

If your municipality does not offer those services, online options, such as Earth911 or RecycleSearch, provide tools to help you find recycling centers in your area.

Vacuum Insulated Panels

Vacuum Insulated Panels
Example of Vacuum Insulated Panels

Upon receiving a shipment featuring Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs), any damage to it where the vacuum may be compromised requires appropriate disposal measures. 

Disposing of them poses challenges due to the composite nature of materials within them, often rendering them incompatible with conventional recycling programs. When VIPs are components of a broader packaging ensemble, separating them from other materials, such as cardboard or plastic, is advisable.

When recycling options for VIPs are unavailable, proper disposal in regular trash or a landfill may be necessary. However, adherence to local regulations is imperative, as certain regions may have specific directives governing the disposal of such materials.

Cardboard

Cardboard Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

As cardboard is predominantly employed in shipping, it’s essential to eliminate any shipping-related components, such as packing peanuts, plastic bags, cardboard dividers, and bubble wrap.

  1. Use a knife or scissors to cut any tape sealing the box’s top and/or bottom.
  2. Flatten the box to save space for recycling. You can leave the tape on, but most recycling facilities prefer flattened boxes. Consider folding or cutting the flattened box in half for large boxes to ensure it fits into your recycling cart.
  3. Find a designated drop-off location for cardboard recycling in your area.

Note:

  • Avoid placing boxes outside during rainy weather, as wet cardboard is not accepted in recycling due to its lack of market demand.
  • If dealing with food-soiled boxes, like pizza boxes, remove any food residue before recycling. Pizza boxes with oil stains, excluding food remnants, are generally acceptable in most curbside recycling programs.

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts typically come in two varieties: EPS Styrofoam and corn starch.

Packing peanuts made from corn starch are often referred to as biodegradable or compostable packing peanuts. These eco-friendly alternatives are designed to break down more easily than traditional Styrofoam peanuts. They can be added to your compost pile and are water-soluble. Just like with traditional peanuts, consider dropping off corn starch packing peanuts at shipping retailers like UPS Stores or FedEx Office locations. They often have designated bins for packaging materials.

Packaging Peanut Disposal
Packing Peanuts

Most packing peanuts are made of polystyrene, a plastic polymer also known as Styrofoam. These can be difficult to recycle, and options may be limited, but if you need to dispose of them:

  1. Separate packing peanuts from cardboard, paper instructions, plastic bags, and other EPS packaging in the shipping box.
  2. White packing peanuts are commonly accepted at drop-off sites; other colors may not be.
  3. Pack all packing peanuts in a single container, like a clear plastic bag.
  4. To dispose of packing peanuts, contact local shipping stores to see if they accept them for reuse. While some EPS recyclers will accept peanuts, you should contact them to confirm if there’s a minimum quantity accepted for recycling.

Note: When disposing of packing peanuts in the trash, ensure they are contained within a single bag to prevent them from escaping the garbage truck during transportation and becoming litter.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap
Bubble wrap

Bubble wrap poses recycling challenges as it cannot go into standard recycling bins. Only a few facilities accepting plastic will take bubble wrap due to its potential to disrupt sorting machines. Drop-off locations exist, but you should contact your local municipality for more information.

For finding recycling locations, you can also consult the “Drop-off Directory” at https://bagandfilmrecycling.org/ or https://earth911.com/.

What to Do If You Are Unsure What Packaging Can Be Recycled

If you are unsure what can be recycled in your area properly, check with your local waste management agency or municipality. They may have specific guidelines or disposal programs in place for these items. 

As mentioned earlier, there are also several websites with information on recycling locations, including: 

Looking for Guidance or a Replacement to Your Packaging Solutions? 

You may not generally think of it, but the most environmentally friendly packaging materials can be reused several times before packaging disposal. If this isn’t possible, it is important to properly dispose of your packaging materials to prevent them from causing harm to the environment or wildlife. By following these simple tips, you can dispose of cold gel packs in an environmentally friendly way.

If you want a more environmentally friendly solution, contact our team for more information so we can design a packaging system that works for you.

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does corrugated cardboard differ from paperboard?

While the term “cardboard” is commonly used for various boxes, it’s essential to note that shipping boxes are officially referred to as corrugated cardboard. The distinctive feature of corrugated cardboard is the additional layer of fiber that zig-zags between the brown sheets, providing increased tear resistance and enhanced durability for shipping purposes. On the other hand, paperboard is thinner and less robust, typically utilized for items like cereal boxes. Despite being colloquially labeled as cardboard, they represent distinct paper grades with varying commodity values.

What prevents the recycling of wet cardboard?

Despite incorporating water in the paper recycling process, getting paper wet and allowing it to dry alters the fibers, resulting in a stiffer feel. Additionally, paper mills are hesitant to pay for wet paper due to the added weight from the excess water.

Can I place packing peanuts in my curbside recycling bin?

Many cities do not include any type of expanded polystyrene (EPS) in their curbside recycling programs. However, it’s essential to verify this information locally. Even if your local program claims to accept #6 plastic (which technically includes EPS), foam plastics are often excluded.

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