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A detailed guide to fully recyclable chilled packaging

David Mason: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31633

The ultimate guide to chilled packaging solutions

Selecting the best option for your business

With a wide variety of chilled packaging solutions now available on the market, how do you select the best option for your business?

In this detailed guide to chilled packaging you can discover different options, their benefits, and their impact on the environment.



Why chilled packaging can be crucial to your business

Chilled packaging, also known as temperature controlled packaging, is used to maintain the temperature of its contents during general handling and transit. It is widely used for food, pharmaceuticals and other temperature-sensitive products.

This type of packaging can be made from various materials, including non-recyclable and recyclable elements.

Depending on the material that is used, the product contained within and the duration of transit, external temperature-controlled environments might need to be used in conjunction with the packaging selected for the product type.

Types of materials used

Choosing the right material can mean huge advantages for your business in multiple ways.

This includes being eco-friendly whilst offering high performance for temperature stability and cushioning against potential shocks and knocks during handling and transit.

Simply picking the right chilled packaging solution can have environmental advantages and save you money in the long run from reduced shipping costs, damages and recalls.

Recyclable materials


Cardboard is widely recycled and is the most convenient component to recycle for end users.

The fluting traps air between the cardboard layers, providing insulation. As such, this cheap material is a good insulator, keeping external heat away from the cold components inside.

Cardboard has a few disadvantages, including being unsuitable for damp environments. This issue is resolvable using specialist coatings but can impact its ability to be recycled.

Another alternative to protecting your packaging and goods is the type of insulative linings you can opt for.

Close-up of the paper fibres within the chilled packaging pads.
A close-up of the paper fibres inside the insulated padding.

Paper insulation

We’ve already discussed how insulative cardboard is, so it makes sense that paper-based box liners would be the obvious solution to sustainable chilled packaging.

These liners, because they’re made from paper fibres, can be easily recycled.

An often overlooked benefit is that the padding of the liners provides additional protection to the goods inside, protecting against damage from general handling and transit. It should also be noted that they’re light enough to reduce shipping costs over traditional polystyrene or Styrofoam packaging.

However, like cardboard, if they get damp, the liners can become heavy, so this type of insulative liner requires adequate storage and correct usage.


Woolcool is a re-useable insulative solution that avoids paper and plastic products completely.

Made from wool, WoolCool is a great insulator and is biodegradable (this does not mean it’s recyclable), making it better for the environment than plastic.

The only downside is that it’s costly and inconvenient to dispose of.

Non-recyclable materials

Polystyrene and Styrofoam

Whilst plastics play a crucial role in the industry with larger or more challenging products, polystyrene and Styrofoam can usually be avoided when considering chilled packaging.

It has the same insulative properties as specialised cardboard chilled packaging boxes, keeping products below 5ºC degrees for up to 72 hours. And it still requires the same environment as cardboard, with general handling and external cooling factors like refrigerated courier vehicles.

This type of packaging is not recyclable and is bulkier than its cardboard counterpart, requiring more storage to be available. This factor disadvantages businesses due to increased warehousing costs and shipping costs.

Polystyrene boxes stacked neatly.
Polystrene is well-known for being an insulative product but causes damages to the environment.

Composite packaging

This type of packaging is typically geared towards chilled or frozen products.

Composite packaging uses more than one type of material to develop the packaging. A typical example, foil-insulated liners, consists of a metal layer over plastic bubble wrap. This material can be an effective source of insulation, relying on the air and metal to keep goods cool.

More often than not, composite chilled packaging isn’t recyclable, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Consumers can also get confused with this type of packaging, and it’ll often end up in landfill or contaminating recycling bins.

Reduce shipping costs

How choosing recyclable chilled packaging can save you money on shipping costs

Reducing costs is often seen as a short-term benefit, but choosing the right chilled packaging solution for you can be a longer-term benefit.

Three in One

One advantage of customised packaging is the ability to fit specific product dimensions or optimise space on lorries, reducing shipping costs and helping the environment with fewer vehicles on the road.

With this comes reduced product loss. Because the product fits the packaging, there will be less opportunity for the product to move and become damaged.

Further benefits

With more advanced chilled packaging available on the market, these solutions may require less energy to maintain the desired temperature during transit, thus leading to lower energy costs and reduced environmental impact.

Chilled packaging can extend the shelf life of products, allowing businesses to keep products in inventory for longer periods or ensure product stability during longer transit periods. These properties reduce the need for rush or expedited shipping, which is often more expensive.

With a longer shelf life thanks to chilled packaging, other factors such as optimised shipping routes can be calculated, saving costs in fuel or opting for cost-effective transportation options rather than specialised couriers.

Shipping regulations

It’ll be valuable for you to liaise with your delivery and packaging companies to ensure your packaging complies with any shipping regulations.

By working towards meeting these requirements, your business will avoid any potential fines or penalties associated with non-compliance.

Ensuring this is carried out can also have a knock-on effect on increased customer satisfaction, with products arriving safely in their care and reducing customer service costs for processing complaints, returns or reissuing new stock.

A magnifying glass with regulations written on a piece of paper on top.
Doing your own research on regulations will ensure you secure the right packaging and prevent any legalities on behalf of your business.

Reducing costs

Whilst you may have to face the upfront costs associated with purchasing packaging materials, the overall reduction in costs in other areas, increased shelf-life, and customer satisfaction can make it a cost-effective choice for businesses.

Reduce damage

An often overlooked benefit

The most common issue reported is damage and recalls. Chilled packaging is crucial in maintaining the quality and safety of temperature sensitive products.

Design and innovation have seen the adoption of recyclable packaging, like Sealed Air TempGuard™. This product has the added benefit of reducing damages from the thick paper-based box liner, which also offers cushioning for goods during handling and transit.

Spoiled goods

With different insulative packaging materials that are obtainable, these packaging types serve as temperature control, preventing spoilage, degradation and compromised product safety, preserving product quality and reducing the likelihood of customers receiving damaged or spoiled goods.

Temperature control products can prevent bacterial growth, reduce the risk of illness, and minimise product contamination. It can also considerably extend the shelf life for time-sensitive goods, like pharmaceuticals and vaccines, allowing them to stay viable for longer periods.

An unhappy couple looking in a box
Avoid disappointing your customers from preventing spoilage and damages.

Transit damage

Chilled packaging can minimise temperature fluctuations during transit, especially when exposed to varying conditions, minimising the impact on product integrity.

Finally, by meeting compliance and regulations for packaging and shipping, you’ll reduce the risk of recalls and financial losses from non-compliance.

Your brand

Overall, your chilled packaging solution will need to ensure your customers receive products in pristine condition to enhance their satisfaction and build trust in your brand. This can lead to repeat purchases and positive reviews whilst reducing returns and recalls due to customer complaints.

To help you achieve this quickly and in terms of scalability, you may employ a tracing and monitoring strategy to quickly identify any potential issues and take corrective action before there is any associated financial loss.

A box with a recycling symbol
Choose packaging that is recyclable for the benefit of the environment.


A challenging decision made easy.

From insulated packaging for frozen food, food subscription boxes, pharmaceuticals and other temperature-sensitive items, we can create a fully bespoke solution tailored towards your business. With a vast array of options available, you can minimise your costs from storage and transit whilst reducing damages and recalls.

As chilled packaging suppliers, GWP Group can help you with free, impartial advice. We have more than 30 years of experience in providing insulated packaging solutions and have a team of knowledgeable designers and engineers who focus on minimising the environmental impact of your packaging.

So, if you need help with chilled packaging, please speak with one of our packaging experts.

Further Reading...

About the Author

David Mason, GWP Packaging

David Mason

Sales Director | GWP Packaging

David is Sales Director for GWP Packaging, having initially joined the company (then Great Western Packaging) back in 1990. [Read full bio…]

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