It seems harmless at first sight, but is fake snow (aka instant snow) safe for the environment? Well, it mainly depends on what your instant snow is made from.
To begin with, we’re going to rule out fake snow that is made from water and used on ski slopes and such. Whilst this does also fit the definition of fake snow, it’s not what this article is about. We’re taking about fake snow that is made from sodium polyacrylate or similar polymers. This is the stuff that expands many times its original size when water is added to it.
Most fake snow is made from sodium polyacrylate. So, if you have a product that doesn’t specify the materials used then err on the side of caution and treat as you would if it were sodium polyacrylate snow.
Sodium polyacrylate is a safe and non toxic material. It has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help grow fruit and vegetables. The material has been used for many decades by farmers looking to retain water content in their soil.
- Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Biodegradable?
- Are Other Types Of Fake Snow Safe For The Environment?
- Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Safe For Humans?
- Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Safe For Pets?
- How Should I Dispose of Fake Snow?
- How NOT To Dispose of Instant Snow
- In Conclusion:
Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Biodegradable?
This really depends on the time-frame you’re using.
In the best case situation, fake snow made from sodium polyacrylate might fully decompose within 10 to 20 years.
This best case scenario has the snow in a wet and oxygenated environment, with the addition of UV rays from the sun to help break apart the polymer chains. This isn’t likely to be the case, because who has the time to leave instant snow out on a tray for a decade or longer!
The time-frame is so wide because it is difficult to find studies that have been done on sodium polyacrylate degradation.
Note: Many manufacturers and suppliers imply that their instant snow is easily biodegradable. This is not the case if it is made from sodium polyacrylate.
Are Other Types Of Fake Snow Safe For The Environment?
This depends on what the snow is made from, as there are many different recipes. Some recipes are made up of solely organic compounds, and these are fully biodegradable and perfectly safe. Others mix organic with inorganic materials, and these may only partially be biodegradable.
Baking Soda & Shaving Cream
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is fully biodegradable. However, many shaving cream brands contain inorganic chemicals that may not break down very quickly. Shaving creams usually contain hydrocarbons for use as a propellant (and these are a source of greenhouse gasses).
Baking Soda & Conditioner
This recipe replaces shaving cream with conditioner. It’s generally a safe recipe when it comes to the environment.
Baking Soda & Cornstarch
A fully organic recipe that is safe for the environment and fully biodegradable.
Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Safe For Humans?
Generally speaking, yes it is safe for humans. This type of instant snow is non-toxic, and if eaten it won’t be absorbed by the body. It also won’t readily stick together into one large clump which helps to reduce the potential for a dangerous blockage within the body.
This doesn’t mean that it’s totally safe to eat. If you (or a child) does eat it, then it will expand and could cause vomiting.
Also remember that the digestive tracts of young children or toddlers are not as developed as adults. There is more chance (albeit a small one) of a blockage if large amounts of instant snow are eaten.
Is Sodium Polyacrylate Fake Snow Safe For Pets?
In most cases, yes. As mentioned earlier, it’s non toxic and won’t be absorbed if ingested. It doesn’t taste like anything edible so your pets aren’t likely to want to eat it. Finally, if it is ingested it’s unlikely to cause a blockage as the particles are tiny, and don’t stick together.
Don’t worry too much if you think your pet has licked up a few particles.
If your pet has eaten more than a teaspoon then proceed with caution. Watch them for signs of vomiting and be prepared to visit the vet if required.
How Should I Dispose of Fake Snow?
It’s best to either dry it out so that it can be reused, or wrap it up and throw it in the trash.
It’s a bit of a shame to have to throw your instant snow away, as it’ll end up in a landfill somewhere, and then sit there for decades (or centuries even). The reason for such a long time-frame is that landfills generally lack oxygen, water, sunlight, and microorganisms. Without these the process to degrade the polymer takes much longer.
How Do I Dry Out and Reuse My Fake Snow?
Place your instant snow on a tray, out of direct sunlight, but somewhere dry and warm. If you have a dehumidifier on hand this will speed the process up.
How NOT To Dispose of Instant Snow
Don’t Put Instant Snow Down The Drain
If you try putting fake snow down the drain you risk causing a blockage. This has happened before with water beads (which are also made out of sodium polyacrylate) and could well happen with fake snow too.
If you have put some down your drain then you should attempt to flush it through your system with water. If this does not work, then try salt water instead as this will shrink the polymer that the snow is made from.
Don’t Mix Instant Snow With Garden Soil
Even though fake snow is a hydrogel, and hydrogels have been used in agriculture for a long time, we don’t recommend trying to mix it into your garden soil. The reason being, if you add too much you risk permanently and negatively changing your soil structure. Basically, too much will result in your garden becoming a marsh every time it rains.
There is no easy way to separate fake snow particles from soil particles, so, if you do this and ruin your soil then you would have to remove the topsoil completely and then lay new soil.
Feel free to use it on a small scale in garden pots though, as this is not risky and the snow is beneficial in maintaining soil water content.
In conclusion, fake snow (that’s made from sodium polyacrylate) is safe for the environment if used and then disposed of in the correct manner. It is biodegradable, but the time-frame for this is in the decades.