DON’T THROW AWAY: They’re reusable, just not edible.
We find them everywhere, popping out of all sorts of packaging, lurking like an ugly bug in vitamin bottles and new shoes. Working freight at my store, I touch dozens of silica packets each day and often ask what I can do to recycle them. Couldn’t we collect them and send them off to a manufacturer for reuse?
Silica gel is a desiccant, a substance that absorbs moisture. Despite its misleading name, the silicate is actually a very porous mineral with a natural attraction to water molecules. Manufacturers utilize the gel to keep goods from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity. The gel itself is nontoxic, but can have a moisture indicator added (cobalt chloride) which is a known toxin that turns pink when hydrated and is otherwise blue in its dry form. Most silica found in our food and household purchases looks like tapioca beads and is benign unless combined with certain chemicals.
Although silica gel has massive potential for reuse, I haven’t had any luck finding a recycler. But I did discover several great suggestions for using these packs around the house and keeping them from the landfill just a wee bit longer…