Fresh meal delivery services, both for kids and adults, offer busy consumers unmatched convenience. When it comes to baby and kids meal deliveries, they also add an extra benefit of peace of mind for concerned parents who are unsure of their ability to serve their children nutritious foods that meet their nutritional and developmental needs.
The unfortunate news is that the meal delivery industry has come under fire over the last few years due to the difficulty in recycling the freezer gel packs that are needed to keep the meals fresh and refrigerated throughout the shipping process. Most companies use sodium polyacrylate to fill their heavy gel packs, which is not recyclable and is ending up in our landfills by the thousands.
Thankfully, some brands have taken notice of the issue and have stood up and decided to do better by taking a more sustainable approach to their packaging. In this article, we’ll get into the dangers of companies who use unsustainable packaging like sodium polyacrylate and then discuss some alternatives that are making the world a more sustainable place.
What’s Sodium Polyacrylate and Why Is It Not Sustainable?
Anyone who has ever received a meal delivery box or any kind of refrigerated box in the mail might have noticed get packs that have a mystery goo inside of them. If you happened to open it up, you’d see that it’s a whitish color with the consistency of applesauce. This is sodium polyacrylate., a powder that can absorb up to 300 times its weight in water.
You may be more familiar with this substance than you think, it’s also used in all kinds of common consumer products like detergents and fertilizers, but it’s most commonly used in baby diapers. Ever wonder how they can absorb the urine and keep your baby dry? Sodium polyacrylate is the answer.
It’s used in meal delivery packaging because it can stay cold for days at a time thanks to the fact that it thaws much more slowly than water.
But What About Companies Who Use It And Claim It’s Non-Toxic?
Here’s the thing, it technically is nontoxic, posing little to no danger to consumers, but for the people who manufacture sodium polyacrylate, it’s a different story. Most meal delivery companies contract with a freezer-pack manufacturer, so it’s those who make these freezer packs that are at risk.
In its powdered state, sodium polyacrylate can enter into workers’ lungs and cause some health issues. A study published by the CDC in 2011 noted that workers in a sodium polyacrylate plant developed severe lung disease after being exposed to a high concentration of the substance over time.
What About The Environment?
Aside from posing a threat to those who work amongst it, sodium polyacrylate can do a number on our environment, too. A team of Swedish researchers in 2015 found that making it produces significant greenhouse gases. This is because it’s made from the same stuff as fossil fuels. Worse yet, sodium polyacrylate doesn’t biodegrade, which means those mountains of freezer packs that end up in our landfills aren’t going to be going anywhere anytime soon.
How Meal Delivery Companies Can Turn Things Around
To recap, freezer packs that contain sodium polyacrylate and are found in many fresh meal delivery boxes are creating a giant problem for our landfills, and some companies aren’t being as upfront about this as they should be. So how can we fix this?
Many companies are switching to greener, more sustainable forms of packaging and freezer packs, opting to use biodegradable materials instead of sodium polyacrylate.
For example, some companies are switching to gel packs that contain low-density polyethylene with 98% water and 2% non-GMO cotton. With this, consumers can cut the gel packs and drain the contents into their trash or compost bin. The pouch can then be taken to be recycled by a recycling center that accepts #4 plastic films.
Additional Ways to Reduce Waste and Promote More Sustainable Meal Delivery Kits
- Get rid of plastic pouches as they are not recyclable curbside.
- All materials should be recyclable so that nothing ends up in the landfill.
- Skip packaging where you can. (i.e. don’t put a plastic bag over fruits and vegetables that already have their peel or skin for protection.)
- Teach customers how to properly recycle and dispose of meal kit materials so that they’re educated.
Brands That Are Dedicated to Doing Better
There are plenty of brands out there that are dedicated to making their packaging more healthy and taking the necessary steps to ensure safety. Take a look at our in-depth research on kids meal delivery comparisons and reviews to learn more, as we only cover those who take food safety seriously.
If you’re looking to subscribe to a prepared meal service or a meal delivery kit service, it’s highly advisable to take a look at their company information regarding their packaging and to ensure that you’re spending your money on a brand that cares as much about delivering healthy food as they do taking care of the planet we live on.