Is antifreeze biodegradable? (5 ways to store antifreeze sustainably) 

The article will talk about the biodegradability of antifreeze. Other covered topics would include:

  • Is antifreeze sustainable?
  • How to recycle antifreeze?
  • How to dispose of antifreeze?
  • How to store antifreeze?
  • Is there any eco-friendly antifreeze?

Is antifreeze biodegradable?

Antifreeze is biodegradable because it is mostly made from ethylene glycol or propylene glycol which will degrade in a few weeks. 

However, antifreeze, despite being biodegradable, is not considered eco-friendly because it is made from toxic materials and that is why it is best to recycle it whereas safe disposal is considered a second priority. 

It is also not advised to drain it down the drain or dispose of it in the backyard as there are detrimental impacts on aquatic and soil ecosystems. If you prefer a better option, you may choose vegetable-based antifreeze which is considered an eco-friendly and a better option. 

Is antifreeze natural?

Yes, antifreeze is natural and biodegradable. There are two main materials that are used to make antifreeze. These include ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. 

Both of these materials are known and researched to break down under normal conditions and by the action of microbes. Therefore, the verdict is that most antifreeze is biodegradable. 

Biodegradation is defined as the breakdown caused by the action of microbes so that the waste may not accumulate and cause environmental problems. The general rule of thumb is that when a material breaks down in about 180 days, it will be considered biodegradable. 

How long does antifreeze take to degrade?

There are two main materials used to make antifreeze. These include ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. The two materials degrade rather readily. consider : 

  • In the air, ethylene glycol will biodegrade in about 10 days. 
  • In water,  ethylene glycol will biodegrade in a few weeks.
  • In soil, ethylene glycol will biodegrade in a few weeks.
  • In the air, propylene glycol will biodegrade within 20-32 hours.
  • In soil, propylene glycol will biodegrade in about 5 days.

Is antifreeze sustainable?

However, it is not just about the breakdown. There are two main factors that determine the biodegradability of any product or material. One is the time taken by the material to degrade and the other is the environmental impact caused by the material. 

While in terms of time taken, antifreeze is biodegradable, the environmental impact of antifreeze is not that supportive. This is said because research has proven that antifreeze is actually toxic to not only humans but all forms of life. 

What this means is that when antifreeze is not dealt with and disposed of properly, there could be environmental anomalies in terms of water pollution, soil pollution, the effect on aquatic ecosystems, and degradative effects on plants. 

How to dispose of antifreeze correctly?

A proceeding question that is often asked in relation to the biodegradability of antifreeze is what is the right way to dispose of antifreeze. 

As regards the question, it is claimed that the right way to dispose of antifreeze is to recycle it because by doing so, you will ensure that there is no exposure of disposal of antifreeze into the environment since it has been established that it is toxic to almost all forms of life. 

Therefore, the real question is how to recycle antifreeze. Let us delve into these details with due elucidation:

How to recycle antifreeze?

If there is an ABOP (Antifreeze, Batteries, Oil, and Paint) waste collection in your area, your work is way easier. However, if not, there are other options too that you can depend upon. 

First of all, you need to know that the used antifreeze may be quite hazardous and therefore, regardless of how tempting it may be, you must never dispose of your antifreeze like your normal trash. It will cause great havoc and toxicity in the environment. 

Therefore, you need to know what good and sustainable steps you can take to have the antifreeze recycled or disposed of. For that, you need to know the condition of your antifreeze. It may be in three different conditions: 

  • New
  • Slightly used or old 
  • Tainted 

Unused antifreeze

If the antifreeze is new, chances are that most recycling centres, service stations and auto repair shops will accept it without hesitation. 

You can also consider giving it to any of your family members because the antifreeze is as good as new and everyone needs it, especially in extreme weather conditions. 

Slightly used antifreeze

The case of slightly used antifreeze is similar to that of unused antifreeze because here again, chances are that most recycling centres, automobile workshops, and service stations will accept the slightly used antifreeze. 

The centres will make sure that the antifreeze is used to its full capacity and you will make sure that the environment is saved from the detrimental and harmful effects of the antifreeze. 

Tainted antifreeze

In the case of the tainted antifreeze, the story will take a sharp u-turn. When antifreeze is tainted, it means that its chemistry has changed dramatically and that it must be categorised as hazardous waste. 

When it comes to tainted antifreeze, the chances get slimmer and not everyone at the workshop or service station will be accepting the antifreeze because it will be of no use to them. 

In that case, you can search for a nearby hazardous waste collection facility and have the tainted antifreeze delivered there. However, it can not be asserted enough that you can never dispose of tainted antifreeze like your normal trash. 

Can antifreeze go down the drain? 

It is a big NO when it comes to draining the antifreeze down the drain. The reason is simple: chemicals. The various chemicals present in the antifreeze can cause great harm not only to humans but also to animals, and aquatic and marine species. 

The chemicals present in antifreeze include:

  • Methanol 
  • Ethylene glycol 
  • Propylene glycol 

These materials are considered toxic to both human and animal life and therefore, their incorrect and exploitative disposal can put life (at large) at a huge risk of toxicity and this toxicity can also travel through different stages of food chains and food levels. 

As it is known, the waste from the drains eventually ends up in the water bodies. The compounds discussed above will alter the biology and chemistry of the water bodies and this may result in significant degradative changes to the local flora and fauna such as organ damage, affected reproduction and death. 

Can you discard antifreeze in your backyard?

Some, if not many, also make the mistake of disposing of their used or even tainted antifreeze in the backyard. While this option may appear convenient, it is the least preferred one in terms of sustainability and eco-friendliness. 

The antifreeze, owing to its toxic chemicals that are used to make it, can potentially destroy your crops, and plants, and also cause damage to the soil. The materials that make up antifreeze are considered highly toxic and may stem changes such as death, wilting, changed pH of the soil, leaf discolouration, and reduced growth– to name a few. 

How to store Antifreeze sustainably? (5 ways) 

Perhaps the storage of antifreeze is as important as the disposal or recycling of it because good storage means that the environment is saved from the harmful effects of antifreeze. 

For the correct storage, consider the following options:

  • Store the antifreeze in the designated bottles. Do not be excessively creative here
  • Store the antifreeze in a cool and dry place
  • Store the antifreeze away from sunlight
  • Store the antifreeze away from children and pets as it is toxic 
  • Store the antifreeze in locked cabinets with limited access to avoid any misuse and exploitation

Is there any eco-friendly antifreeze?

Yes, while most antifreeze is made from harmful and toxic materials, there are some eco-friendly options available too and the good news is that you will not need to make any compromise on the quality. In fact, certain studies indicate otherwise. 

It is claimed that eco-friendly antifreeze, in terms of utility, is way ahead of conventional antifreeze because of the fact that it is made from natural and efficient materials. 

This antifreeze is made from vegetable extracts making it eco-friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic all at once. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that antifreeze is biodegradable because it is mostly made from ethylene glycol or propylene glycol which will degrade in a few weeks. 

However, antifreeze, despite being biodegradable, is not considered eco-friendly because it is made from toxic materials and that is why it is best to recycle it whereas safe disposal is considered a second priority. 

It is also not advised to drain it down the drain or dispose of it in the backyard as there are detrimental impacts on aquatic and soil ecosystems. If you prefer a better option, you may choose vegetable-based antifreeze which is considered an eco-friendly and a better option. 

References

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