Gel Based Coolant Environmental FAQs


Icer-Pack Coolant Environmental & Safety FAQs

Why do you use plastic for the outer bag of your coolants?

Our coolants are water based and therefore require a plastic to contain the contents. Currently available alternatives are just simply not suitable to deliver the performance required for the application. There are suppliers out there who offer what appears to be a paper outer on their coolants, but this is simply paper on the outside which is actually lined with plastic to contain the liquid – requiring an extra degree of recycling by the end user.

Can the coolants be reused?

Yes, we love it when customers reuse our bags. Our coolants can be re-used many times over for keeping shopping / picnics cold, and even for helping with injuries!

Can the outer bag be recycled once used?

Yes, they are 100% recyclable.

The bag is LDPE 4 material. A small proportion of local councils will currently accept this kerbside (you will need to check with your own council), but you will be able to recycle the outer bags along with carrier bags and films at the majority of major supermarkets.

We are hopeful that as part of ‘The UK Plastics Pact’ that the Government will act to continue to make the recycling process easier for the end user and create a more fully closed loop system: –

The UK Plastics Pact | WRAP

Why don’t you use a biodegradable or compostable plastic?

Whilst it sounds great, biodegradable plastic is actually non-recyclable, and is considered as a contaminant in current recycling streams. Most biodegradable plastics end up in landfill, and despite the name, they can take a very long time to degrade in landfill conditions (they often require industrial conditions with pressure and heat to degrade in a sensible time frame). In our opinion, LDPE is actually a better option from an environmental perspective.

Regarding compostable plastics, the main problem is our application involves the containment of a liquid. Currently available compostable plastics are considered to be water permeable, which ultimately means that they would eventually break down for our application. This would mean that the coolants would have a very limited shelf life, not be re-usable, and would ultimately cause a high rate of failures and logistical challenges for our customers. Compostable plastics are still currently 3 to 4 times more expensive than standard LDPE, and are not without their own environmental challenges and impacts.

So that’s it, you will just be using LDPE?

As a company, we are always keen to improve and reduce our environmental impact, so are keen to keep improving what we do and engage with new ideas and materials. We currently believe that LDPE still remains the best material available for our product in terms of functionality and recyclability. It would be great if scientists could invent a new revolutionary material that is suitable for our application that is not plastic based, but failing that we are hopeful that LDPE will continue to become more readily recyclable as part of the plastics pact from the government and large corporations.

We always welcome feedback from customers if they are aware of anything that we are missing.

What are the bag contents – i.e. the ‘gel’?

The contents of the bags are >99% purified water with a small amount of what is known as a ‘Super Absorbent Polymer’ called Sodium Polyacrylate. This added substance absorbs 200-300 times its own weight in water to create a ‘gel’.

What is Sodium Polyacrylate? Is it safe?

It is a sodium salt of polyacrylic acid, used in many applications for its water absorption characteristics. It is most commonly known for its use in baby nappies to absorb moisture, but has many other applications. It is a safe and non-toxic substance. In our gel packs it is already fully hydrated, so does not pose any major risks through inhalation or ingestion. The gel contents are food safe. Copies of the COSHH assessment and MSDS are available on request.

How do you dispose of the gel in your packs?

A great re-use of the gel contents are actually in gardening. If mixed within soil around plants, the gel actually helps retain moisture and nutrients, and it is completely safe for use. There are actually a few well-known brands who sell the same substance (Sodium Polyacrylate) in crystal form in gardening centres for this exact application. Ours is already in its hydrated form, but is still great to mix in soil.

We have formulated the gel through a process of trial and error to provide the required performance whilst being safe to rinse down a standard sink. We have previously communicated with the Wastewater Science Manager from our local water board who has confirmed that our product will have no detrimental impact when drained. The contents are also safe to go to landfill.

Why don’t you just use water instead of mixing it into a gel?

The gel has several advantages over an equivalent water based pack: –

  • If the outer bag of the coolant experiences a small puncture, the gel is far less likely to leak everywhere and spoil the box contents when compared to water. For this reason, several couriers (including DPD) recommend the use of gel based coolants compared to water.
  • Our in-house testing shows that gel based coolants offer >10% enhanced cooling performance over water-based equivalents.
  • The added viscosity created by the gel mixture makes the manufacturing process easier and quicker compared to water. This actually reduced the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process, and reduces waste.

Why don’t you use an alternative thickening ingredient in the water that I can put into my compost bin?

We have begun to conduct research into alternatives such as ‘cellulose ethers’, but this comes with its own problems. Natural based ingredients are generally more prone to bacterial formation, making then unsafe for our application. Also, they are generally a lot more difficult to mix and dispense than sodium polyacrylate, which would dramatically increase the carbon footprint of our product. Taking a holistic approach to the environment, we wouldn’t want to compromise carbon footprint and product integrity to improve our disposability. We continue to research our options to improve sustainability where possible, to see if there are alternative materials and processes that can solve all of the issues rather than compromising in other areas.

I / my child / my pet has consumed some of your coolant contents by accident – what do I do?

Firstly, don’t panic. The contents of our coolant are non-toxic and non-hazardous, and the Sodium Polyacrylate is already hydrated with a large proportion of purified water, so does not pose a hazard to choking / blockage. Whilst we do not expect it to cause any major problems, we recommend that you drink plentiful amounts of water and monitor for any adverse side effects. If any symptoms or problems occur, we advise that you consult with a doctor.

If you have any questions or queries that haven’t been answered here, or if you just want to have a chat about our products, please contact the office by phone or email: 01978 661247/[email protected].