Cold Chain Goes Green

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Equipment and Processing Report

Equipment and Processing Report, Equipment and Processing Report-09-19-2018, Volume 11, Issue 10

Insulated shippers boost recyclable and renewable content.

The global cold chain market continues to grow at a strong rate. Valued at $147.55 billion in 2017, it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 15.0% between 2018 and 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research. Insulated containers and boxes dominate the market and are projected to maintain a steady growth rate (1).

Insulated containers and boxes play an essential role in protecting temperature-sensitive drugs from prolonged exposure to temperatures outside the range specified on their labels. Although a few insulated shippers are intended to be returned for reuse or recycling, many designs are viewed as being less than ideal from a sustainability viewpoint. Three new options combine temperature protection with an enhanced sustainability profile. 

The ClimaCell paper-based insulator from TemperPack is designed to replace expanded polystyrene coolers, which have a limited recycling infrastructure, and is capable of protecting temperature-sensitive shipments for up to 80 hours. Certified to the standards of the Fibre Box Association and the American Forest & Paper Association, it can be recycled in the corrugated waste stream and significantly reduces packaging waste. “With the massive growth in eCommerce-fueled perishables like food and medicine, we wanted to introduce ‘guilt-free’ insulation that was just as easy to recycle as the cardboard box it came in,” said James McGoff, co-CEO of TemperPack (2).

To reinforce the recycling message, the ClimaCell insulator carries the How2Recycle mark (see Figure 1). How2Recycle, a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, promotes recycling by creating a clear, well-understood, and nationally harmonized label that tells consumers how to recycle a package. “Consumers unknowingly recycle things that aren’t recyclable and throw things out that should have ended up in their curbside recycling bins,” notes McGoff. “Getting the How2Recycle certification will help ensure that anyone who receives a ClimaCell product will know that it can be disposed of alongside the cardboard box or paper bag it came in,” he explained (3).

ClimaCell insulation can be printed with custom graphics and messaging and is designed to maximize thermal performance and moisture resistance, while minimizing weight and storage space. “We found that companies in this space put a high value on communicating their sustainability efforts…, and we wanted to offer something that looks as good as it performs,” concluded John Briney, director of Marketing at TemperPack (2). 

Another recyclable insulation option, TempGuard thermal insulation from Sealed Air, is made from recycled paper and tested to International Safe Transit Association certification standards to ensure it maintains required temperatures for overnight and two-day ground shipping. The material also cushions contents (4).

OptumRx, a pharmacy-care services firm, has adopted recyclable packaging to eliminate polystyrene in the delivery of temperature-sensitive specialty and maintenance prescriptions. The packaging consists of 100% renewable cotton and is also biodegradable, compostable, and reusable. Converting to the packaging for four-million prescriptions per year is projected to save 17-million gallons of water, four-million kilowatt hours of energy, and two-million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. “Our new packaging ensures each shipment maintains the highest standard of quality and effectiveness, while reducing the environmental footprint of our medication home delivery services,” said Jon Mahrt, chief of Operations at OptumRx (5).



1. Grand View Research, “Cold Chain Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Packaging, by Equipment, by Type (Monitoring Components, Transportation, Storage), by Application, by Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025,”, accessed Sept. 12, 2018. 

2. TemperPack, “TemperPack Launches ClimaCell, a Certified Recyclable Packaging Solution for Perishable Shipments,” Press Release, May 10, 2018. 

3. TemperPack, “TemperPack Partners with How2Recycle Label Program for Its ClimaCell Product Line,” Press Release, Sept. 5, 2018. 

4. OptumRx, “OptumRx Introduces 100% Sustainable Packaging for Medication Home Delivery,” Press Release, Aug. 16, 2018. 

5. Sealed Air, “Sealed Air Supplies Sun Basket with Recyclable Packaging for Recipe Deliveries,” Press Release, Jan. 18, 2018. 

About the author

Hallie Forcinio is Pharmaceutical Technology's Packaging Editor.