Those Gel Packs

(last updated 2019-Jul-09)

I've been using a meal kit service for a few years now. The recipes are usually very good, and I like that each meal comes with the exact right amount of ingredients. If I tried to make the same meals myself, I would end up throwing out lots of leftover cabbage, radishes, and other vegetables that are hard to buy in small quantities, and bottles of sauce that would expire before I ever finished them.

The downside to meal kits is the environmentally hostile packaging. One or two scallions sealed in plastic. A tiny plastic bottles for 1/2oz of vinegar. The thing that bothers me the most is the frozen gel packs used to keep the product cold during shipping. They are big, heavy, and hard to dispose of.

The key ingredient is sodium polyacrylate, which is also used in diapers. It can absorb a few hundred times its own mass in water.

There's now way I'm dumping that stuff down the drain, I'm fairly certain it would clog up somewhere and cost a few hundred or thousand $$ to clear out.

I've read that sodium polyacrylate is non-toxic (but harmful if the dry crystals get into your nose or eyes), so I wondered, could I simply dump it in my yard or compost pile? Would it break down?

According to a study, it biodegrades at a rate of less than 1% over 24 weeks.

Generously assuming 2% per year, I calculate a "half life" of 34 years,

>>> 1000 * (.98 ** 34)

And I don't know what it breaks down into.

I'm not comfortable with any of that. As much as I dislike landfills, it seems better to concentrate stuff there than to potentially ruin a residential yard.

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