We often see dry ice at those popular raspberry ice cream stores or seafood and meat markets. It’s a refrigerant and is used to keep the food cold. Is dry ice bad for the environment? Dry ice indeed has many uses, but do you know that melting dry ice contributes to increased carbon dioxide emissions.
What is dry ice?
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, which has the chemical symbol CO2. It appears as a white, odorless and very cold, and slightly sweet-tasting material (minus 107.0 F or minus 126.1 C).
When exposed to open air, dry ice sublimates into carbon dioxide gas (chemical formula: CO2). The cold temperature and the carbon dioxide gas it produces are used to achieve many things, such as preserving food and transporting them without spoilage.
See Related: Is Ice Melt Bad for the Environment?
What are the common uses of dry ice?
Dry ice is used for many common purposes, one of which is to keep the food cold.
Due to its cold temperature, dry ice can also be used for keeping raw food fresh. The whole process is done by keeping the raw food in a container that will keep it separate from the dry ice while allowing carbon dioxide gas and oxygen inside.
With dry ice, we can now transport and store our foods and perishable items with ease and no need for refrigeration.
Related: Best Book on Sustainable Living
What is the process of making dry ice?
Dry ice is usually made in three steps. First, CO2 gas will be compressed with a special pressurized machine until the temperature reaches minus 110 F.
The next step is to transport the gas produced through pipes where it will be cooled down with large fans until the pressure reduces enough for it to reach a solidified carbon dioxide form.
The final step is to store the dry ice in large insulated containers. It will be used as needed for various things.
Related: Best Sustainable Gifts
What is carbon dioxide gas, it harmful to the environment?
Carbon dioxide gas, which is produced by the sublimation of dry ice, is harmful to the environment. When carbon dioxide mixes with water vapor in the atmosphere, it becomes a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. A single kilogram of CO2 will continue to affect the climate even after being released into the air for 100 years.
This is because of the nature of carbon dioxide – it diffuses and accumulates in the atmosphere. Scientists say we will need to reduce the amount of CO2 we release into the air, for it will affect not only humans but also plants and animals.
Related: Why is Carbon Monoxide Bad for the Environment?
What is dry ice blasting?
Dry ice blasting is a type of cleaning that uses dry ice pellets as its raw material instead of chemical cleaning solvents. The dry-ice blasting process is more thorough than those of other methods because of the way the frozen carbon dioxide particles move and fracture in contact with an object.
When you apply dry ice pellets to an object, it converts into carbon dioxide gas at an extremely cold temperature. The dust and small cracks inside the object will make the gas expand rapidly outward, then freeze back into dry ice particles that can easily remove dirt or contamination.
This process actually removes tiny pieces of the sublimation residue that are not easy to clear with normal, heated air.
Related: Best Products to Help Climate Change
Is dry ice toxic?
Dry ice is non-toxic to humans. However, it’s better not to touch it with your bare hands, especially if you have open wounds or broken skin since the rapid rate of sublimation through contact can cause frostbite because of its cold temperature. So when handling dry ice, keep your hands covered in thick gloves and use tongs, pliers, or a scoop.
Related: Are Bath and Body Works Candles Bad for the Environment?
Is dry ice biodegradable?
No, dry ice is not biodegradable. It’s a solid form of carbon dioxide and will remain as such unless it sublimates to its gaseous state.
Related: Best Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags
When do dry ice sublimates?
When dry ice melts, the solid carbon dioxide will turn into a carbon dioxide gas – and will be harmful to the environment.
Related: Best Climate Change Jobs
What is climate change?
Climate change is the long-term, sustained and observable changes in weather patterns and their related effects on Earth’s natural environment.
It is also called “global warming” since increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide have been observed for over a century.
Since dry ice is made from carbon dioxide once it sublimes, the dry ice then releases excesses carbon dioxide into the air, that’s why dry ice melts contribute to the greenhouse effect that causes climate change.
Related: Why Should We Care About Climate Change?
What are the effects of climate change?
Climate change has many effects on Earth’s environment, including the following:
- Extreme weather events such as heatwaves and hurricanes are more frequent and intense due to higher temperatures of the ocean. In addition, dry conditions caused by a lack of precipitation can exacerbate drought conditions.
- Rising sea levels will cause coastal flooding while acidification of oceans negatively affects the marine ecosystem.
- Wildlife will be affected by shifting habitats and migrating climate zones, although some plants and animals may benefit from changes to their habitat.
- There is an increase in infectious diseases like malaria because mosquitoes thrive in warm weather climates.
Related: Climate Change Quotes That Will Surprise You
How does dry ice causes climate change?
Once dry ice melts it releases carbon dioxide gas, one of the components of dry ice, which is considered a gas that traps heat – it’s called the greenhouse effect. Dry ice and other gases that contain carbon dioxide can trap solar energy and warm up our atmosphere and the surface of the earth.
Dry ice blasting can create carbon dioxide gas that contributes to these effects of climate change; however, it can be avoided by using carbon dioxide scrubbing technology.
Related: Don’t Read This if You Thinks Climate Change is Fake
What are environmentally friendly alternatives for dry ice?
- Alternatives for dry ice include using compressed air to remove debris or even just hot water that will not damage the object being cleaned.
- Dry ice can also be replaced by foam insulation. Though it’s more expensive, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and is safer to use than dry ice.
- You can use plain solid ice, which is another alternative for dry ice. Water ice evaporates quickly and doesn’t require any preparation work, unlike dry ice that needs to be stored in insulated containers or refrigerators.
Related: Energy Efficient TVs
Carbon Dioxide Scrubbing Technology
To reduce the amount of greenhouse gas created during dry ice blasting, you can use Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology that will capture CO2 gasses before they are released into the atmosphere. This process is done to stop carbon dioxide from becoming a greenhouse gas.
CCS technology can be used in dry ice blasting companies to ensure that CO2 gasses are properly recycled and reused, which will reduce the use of fossil fuels like coal.
This is beneficial because it will slow down global warming by reducing the number of atmospheric pollutants released into the environment.
Related: Energy Efficient Electric Heaters
Dry ice is bad for the environment since dry ice sublimation can contribute to the greenhouse effect that results in climate change.
However due to dry ice’s necessary uses in our current society sometimes we cannot avoid using it, that’s why they use of recycling technology (Carbon Dioxide Scrubbing Technology) for dry ice is very important to reduce the environmental impact of dry ice.