Engineering for the Environment - Part 1: Cold Packs and Diapers
Did you know there is a startling commonality between traditionally manufactured cold packs and baby diapers? The commonality comes in the form of a highly absorbent chemical called Sodium Polyacrylate. Sodium Polyacrylate is capable of absorbing 400x its weight in water, which is great for retaining all the stuff that babies do.
Sodium Polyacrylate is also used by most of the traditional cold packs as the chief component in the refrigerant gel. It’s cheap, it mixes readily with water at a variety of temperatures with minimal mixing energy, and yields a very high viscosity at low concentrations. Only one problem: its terrible for the environment.
Sodium Polyacrylate is a salt of Acrylic Acid, which is derived from petrochemicals in a highly carbon-intense process. Sodium Polyacrylate is also not biodegradable and the vast majority of products containing this chemical will go to landfill and exist there for centuries. According the EPA, at least 4.1 million tons of Sodium Polyacrylate-linked products went into landfill in 2018, which is 1.4% of US total Municipal Solid Waste generated.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of single use cold packs use this chemical. While there are some cold pack manufacturers that have more eco-friendly products lines, Sodium Polyacrylate based products are still represent the lion's share of the cold pack market.
At Minus Works, we decided to take a different approach. All of our hydrogel formulations use renewable components. Our formulations are plant-based and are 100% biodegradable and compostable. We believe this sets up apart – we have an eco-responsible product line that does not sacrifice performance or force the customer to pay a premium.
Check out our MONTT Series gel pack and see how our plant-based formulation can keep your perishables well protected.
 These figures do not include the urine or fecal matter in baby diapers, only the materials used in the products. The waste generated would be even higher if bio-matter were to be included.