I've tried HelloFresh many times throughout my life and they can make preparing meals and learning new recipes pretty easy. But something that has frustrated me and a lot of other people is the massive ice packs that can come in your boxes that are hard to give rid of.
Each one weighs around 5 lbs (2 kgs) each and usually you'll get 2-3 of them per box.
While these can be good to reuse, if you're getting a new HelloFresh box every week (like I did for a time) then within just a couple of months you've got around 20 of these things and at this stage you can't even fit them in your freezer and you need to dispose of them.
So how exactly do you dispose of these HelloFresh gel packs and the gooey liquid inside?
While I'll admit disposing of them can be annoying it's actually not that difficult if you take the right steps.
Don't Wash Them Down The Sink! But Rinsing The Bags Is Ok
While you may be tempted to simply pour the liquid from the HelloFresh ice packs down the sink I would heavily, heavily, advise against this as it can actually clog your drains completely.
The gel in ice packs are so viscous that they can get stuck in your pipes and no water is able to get through.
You could theoretically tip them down the sink slowly using A LOT of running water and then only tipping out the gel pack slowly so there is never a big chunk going down your sink all at once, but this still carries some clogging danger and just isn't worth it.
However, rinsing an already emptied ice pack bag should be fine as the amount of gel actually going down the sink will be quite small and should get washed away by the water.
What Are HelloFresh Ice Packs Made From?
HelloFresh advises that you cut open the ice packs and pour the gel into the garbage bin before rinsing and recycling the plastic bags they come in. But what is in this gooey liquid and is it toxic?
Luckily no – HelloFresh gel packs are not toxic. They are made from mostly water and a small amount of sodium polyacrylate which is a super absorbent polymer (SAP) and is the same stuff that is used to make babies diapers super absorbent. It can absorb up to 100-1,000 times its mass in water (according to Wikipedia).
It is considered non-toxic and used in everything from diapers and pet pads to artificial snow, water beds and even as a fire-retardent gel.
You don't have to be scared of it. In fact, most gel packs are safe and non-toxic to humans.
In some countries HelloFresh is now using ice packs that simply contain frozen water and don't have any sodium polyacrylate in them at all. These are much easier to dispose of but not all areas are using them yet as at the time of writing most states in the US, HelloFresh still use the gel ice packs.
Can You Recycle HelloFresh Gel Ice Packs?
HelloFresh advises that you cut the ice packs, pour the contents into your bin and then rinse out the bags and recycle them.
The bags themselves are made from LDPE or low-density polyethylene (also known as plastic #4) which is the same and while it technically it is recyclable it is pretty uncommon that this type of plastic can be recycled through your kerbside pickup recycling program.
This means if you want to recycle the bags you need to find a separate recycling program in your area that can recycle the bags and you need to manually drop them off to one of these collection points.
Maybe you're better and more eco-friendly than me but this just isn't something I am willing to regularly do. So for me I need to find ways to dispose of these HelloFresh gel ice packs without making a mess.
6 Safe & Easy Ways To Dispose of HelloFresh Ice Packs
Here are the 6 different ways I have found to get rid of these HelloFresh ice packs.
Sometimes I'll choose the simplest option and just throw them away and other times I'll try to be more eco-friendly and reuse them.
1. Throw Them (or Tip Them) In The Garbage
The easiest way to dispose of HelloFresh ice packs is to simply throw them in the garbage.
HelloFresh advises you to cut open the gel packs and tip them into your garbage bin and then recycle the bag. But as we already discussed the bag is hard to recycle as well as the fact that any hole in your bin bag means you get gel everywhere.
For me I tend to dispose of them in 2 different ways.
The easiest method is to simply throw them in your kitchen bin with everything else without cutting them open. The only downside is that these are HEAVY (5 lbs/2 kgs each) and so they will make your bin bag very heavy which could lead to tearing.
To make it easier weigh-wise you can leave them never to you bin and throw away one per bin bag.
You can also just throw them directly into your outside bin ready for collection, but this usually isn't advised.
Ideally you should tip out the contents because it is mostly made from water and this will evaporate in landfill and take up less space. But if you do this just made sure your bin bag doesn't have any holes in it or you'll end up with the gel going everywhere.
My favorite option is to cut the top of them open but leave the gel in the ice pack plastic. Then place the gel ice pack in the bin bag with the cut side upwards so the content don't spill out.
I have found this leads to less spillage but the contents can still evaporate in landfill.
Another idea is to keep them in your freeze then get them out when it times to take your bin bag out. Cut open the bag and put the frozen contents in the bin then take to your outside bin.
This way if there are holes in your bin bag it won't make a mess in your house. It still might make a mess in your outside bin though.
2. Evaporate Them
Interestingly there is only a TINY amount of sodium polyacrylate in the gel ice packs. If you can evaporate the water you are left with a very small amount of this substance that you can then throw in your bin.
According to the video up above a 5 lb HelloFresh gel pack only contained about 0.6 oz of sodium polyacrylate once all the water had evaporated. This is then very light and easy to dispose of in your regular rubbish bin.
The trick is to find ways to simply and easily evaporate the gel.
The best way to do it is to pour the gel into a wide tray. The more surface area the better as this will speed up the process.
Then leave the tray outside in the sun and exposed to the wind in order for it to evaporate.
However, you'll want to keep it out of the rain as any added moisture will be quickly absorbed by the polymer and you're back to square one.
3. Use Them In Your Garden
Sodium polyacrylate gel is sold in garden centers as a way to help the soil retain moisture which plants can draw from between waterings.
It's generally considered safe to use and this substance has been approved from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use in local fruit and vegetable growing.
I've done a full article on how to use gel packs in your garden but the general idea is simple.
All you need to do is mix in the gel/super absorbent polymer in with the soil that your plant is placed in.
When watered the gel will absorb and retain the moisture and as the soil dries out the gel will then slowly release the moisture which the plant can use to stay hydrated.
4. Reuse Them
If you're getting HelloFresh infrequently then it can be a good idea to actually keep the gel packs in your freezer.
They can be useful in coolers (large blocks of ice last longer than small ice) to keep everything cold, they can be used as ice packs for injuries or to keep you cool in summer or you can use them in the fridge during power outages to keep your food cold.
You can reuse these ice packs over and over because gel ice packs generally don't expire so just keep using them until the plastic breaks.
Depending on how big your freezer is you may be limited in how many of these you can keep and reuse. People with deep storage freezers could keep more than I could in my small apartment and my normal freezer.
5. Give Them Away To Friends or Locals
If you find you have too many to reuse yourself then another option could be to give them to friends and family who may want some ice packs.
Or you could post them online in your local group as a free giveaway and someone can come and pick them up and get some use out of them.
6. Some You Can Pour Down The Sink
In a variety of counties such as Australia, Canada, The UK and New Zealand HelloFresh has started using water only ice packs in their boxes that they deliver to you.
For these ice packs you can simply cut them open and pour their contents down the sink, or leave them in the sink to melt and drain.
They are literally made of just water so they are perfectly fine to be disposed of this way.
You'll still need to the throw out or recycle the bag they come in. Hopefully soon HelloFresh will use just water ice packs with some form of biodegradable bag that is better for the environment.
What Can You Do With The Boxes?
If you’re looking for an alternative to recycling or returning your HelloFresh boxes, there are plenty of other options!
One popular option is to donate them to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Most shelters are always in need of extra boxes and would be more than happy to take yours off your hands.
Another great option is to use them as storage containers around your home. They’re perfect for storing holiday decorations, seasonal clothing, or any other items you need to keep out of the way. Just make sure to label each box so you know what’s inside.
And if you’re feeling really creative, you can always upcycle your HelloFresh box into something else entirely. There are plenty of tutorials online for turning them into things like planters, toy boxes, or even pieces of furniture. Just use your imagination and get creative!