Is Dry Ice Environmentally Friendly

Is Dry Ice Environmentally Friendly? Explained

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Annie Baldwin

With climate change top of mind for many, it’s natural to wonder if everyday substances like dry ice are eco-friendly.

Dry ice has some neat properties that make it useful for keeping things cold and cleaning industrial equipment.

But is this frozen form of carbon dioxide truly sustainable?

Is Dry Ice Environmentally Friendly?

dry ice
Image Credit: Memphis Ice

Yes, dry ice is an environmentally friendly product.

It is made from captured carbon dioxide and does not generate any additional greenhouse gases.

The CO2 returns back to its gaseous state through sublimation.

Dry ice provides effective cooling and cleaning capabilities without adding to carbon emissions or waste.

It is a sustainable product for many industrial uses.

Key Points

  • Dry ice is made from captured CO2, not newly generated emissions.
  • It sublimates back to CO2 gas, so no new greenhouse gases are added.
  • Dry ice cleaning and cooling methods are effective, no-waste alternatives.

Our Opinion

Based on the facts presented, we believe dry ice is an environmentally friendly product.

It provides an effective cooling solution without contributing additional carbon dioxide or waste materials.

The use of captured CO2 to produce dry ice is a smart recycling of industrial byproducts.

Sublimation returns the CO2 back to its natural gaseous state.

We feel comfortable classifying dry ice as a sustainable product with minimal environmental impact.

Is Dry Ice a Sustainable Cooling Method?

dry ice blasting
Image Credit: Callaway Industrial

When it comes to keeping things cold, dry ice has its advantages. Made from CO2 that would otherwise be released into the air, dry ice is considered a “zero-sum game.” As it undergoes sublimation from solid to gas, dry ice doesn’t contribute any extra greenhouse gases. This makes it a smart choice for refrigerating temperature-sensitive products like food, medicine, and chemicals.

Dry ice is also used in blasting cleaning methods. Small dry ice pellets are shot out of a blasting machine to remove contaminants and coatings from industrial equipment and surfaces. This process generates no wastewater or hazardous byproducts. And because the dry ice simply turns from solid to gas, there is no added waste volume from the cleaning process itself.

With uses like these, dry ice presents a sustainable cooling and cleaning solution. It’s a natural product that doesn’t create additional CO2 emissions or waste. While safety precautions are needed when handling it, dry ice offers an environmentally friendly option for many applications.

How is Dry Ice Produced?

Dry ice is the frozen form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s produced as a by-product from processes that generate CO2 gas, like:

  • Ethanol fermentation – In ethanol production, CO2 is released when sugars are fermented. This CO2 gas can be captured, pressurized, and cooled to -109°F (-78°C) to produce dry ice pellets or blocks.
  • Ammonia production – CO2 off-gassing also occurs during ammonia synthesis. This provides another source of CO2 that can be converted to dry ice.
  • Fossil fuel power generation – The combustion of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas generates CO2 emissions that can be reclaimed for dry ice production.
  • Geothermal sources – Naturally occurring CO2 released from geothermal springs and geysers provides a way to obtain food-grade dry ice.

The key is starting with a high-purity CO2 source. This ensures the dry ice will be safe for use around food, medicine, and other sensitive materials. While dry ice production methods vary, the end result is the same – taking CO2 gas that would otherwise be vented and converting it into solid dry ice. This gives CO2 a second life as a cooling agent.

Does Dry Ice Release Greenhouse Gases?

dry ice vapors
Image Credit: USGS

When dry ice sublimates, it transitions directly from a solid to a gas, releasing CO2. So while dry ice itself is not a greenhouse gas, its end product (CO2) is. However, dry ice is considered carbon neutral. This is because the CO2 used to make dry ice was already produced and captured, rather than newly generated. No additional CO2 is created in the production process. Essentially, dry ice provides a way to use CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The CO2 emissions from sublimation are roughly equal to what would have occurred anyway. So while CO2 is released, dry ice itself has minimal climate impact.

What is the Carbon Footprint of Dry Ice?

The carbon footprint of dry ice refers to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its production, transportation, and use. While dry ice releases CO2 as it sublimates, the carbon footprint largely depends on the source of the CO2:

  • CO2 reclaimed from ethanol production or ammonia synthesis has a very low carbon footprint. The CO2 was already being generated and captured. Converting it to dry ice prevents direct release into the atmosphere.
  • Using CO2 from fossil fuel-derived sources has a larger carbon footprint. Additional emissions are generated from combusting coal, natural gas, petroleum products like resin, etc. However, capturing the CO2 still reduces the net greenhouse impact.
  • CO2 obtained from natural geothermal sources has an extremely small carbon footprint. The CO2 would have vented naturally regardless.

Transportation of dry ice in refrigerated trucks does consume fuel and these vehicles produce some emissions. However, the amount is relatively small, especially compared to the emissions avoided by reusing CO2.

The carbon footprint also depends on how dry ice is used. Applications like cooling that avoid other refrigerants have lower impacts. Meanwhile, dry ice blasting to clean surfaces releases the CO2 faster, increasing emissions. But overall, when sourced responsibly, dry ice remains a relatively low-carbon method for cooling and cleaning. The reuse of CO2 is a net positive for reducing greenhouse gases.

Are There Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Dry Ice?

While dry ice can be an environmentally friendly option, there are some other alternatives to consider:

  • Regular water ice is more eco-friendly for basic cooling needs. However, it melts faster and can’t reach the extreme cold temperatures of dry ice.
  • Liquid nitrogen is very cold but requires significant energy for production. Containers also tend to lose nitrogen quickly through evaporation.
  • Solid CO2 snow can provide more direct cooling than dry ice pellets. But the production process requires high pressure and more equipment.
  • For cleaning, options like soda blasting use baking soda. No CO2 is released, but the cleaning power is lower. Simple soap and water can also work for light cleaning.
  • Gel packs made of water and cornstarch provide reusable cooling without any emissions. But they don’t get as cold and eventually need replacement.
  • Some new eutectic freeze products claim to get colder through freezing point depression. But many still rely on some dry ice cooling.

Overall, dry ice remains a good option due to its cold temperature and safety. But alternatives like water ice or gel packs may suit some basic cooling needs. For cleaning, soda blasting and soap avoid CO2 emissions. However, dry ice is still the best choice when extreme cold and cleaning power are required.


Why Is Dry Ice Bad for the Environment?

Dry ice is not inherently bad for the environment. It is made from carbon dioxide, which is already present in the atmosphere. The production and use of dry ice do not generate additional greenhouse gases.

What Are the Disadvantages of Dry Ice?

The main disadvantages of dry ice relate to safe handling, not environmental impact. Dry ice is extremely cold and can cause frostbite if mishandled. It sublimates into carbon dioxide gas, which can displace oxygen in confined spaces. Proper ventilation and protective gear are required when using dry ice.

Why Does Dry Ice Not Contribute to Global Warming?

Dry ice is made from carbon dioxide that is captured as a byproduct of industrial processes. Using captured CO2 to make dry ice does not add any additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. When dry ice sublimates back into CO2 gas, it returns what was already present.

How Much Carbon Dioxide Does Dry Ice Produce?

Dry ice does not produce any carbon dioxide. It is solid CO2 that sublimates into gaseous CO2. No additional carbon dioxide is generated through the production or use of dry ice.


Dry ice is considered an environmentally friendly product because it does not contribute any additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The CO2 used to produce dry ice is captured from industrial processes and sublimates back to its gaseous state through use. Dry ice provides an effective cooling method for many applications with minimal environmental impact. Overall, dry ice can be classified as an environmentally sustainable product.

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