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Here’s the latest product shortage: dry ice

Charles Ehizuelen fills a bin of dry ice at Acme Dry Ice in Cambridge. The company, which has been providing the dry ice that Moderna uses to ship its COVID-19 vaccine, has been impacted by a shortage of carbon dioxide. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The dry ice industry is facing its worst shortage in 40 years, according to Marc Savenor, the owner of Acme Dry Ice in Cambridge. It’s the latest in a long list of product shortages that includes everything from computer chips and food to household supplies like diapers.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning ethanol. But several local ethanol plants have shut down for maintenance. While these maintenance closures are a typical part of the process, Savenor said, it’s unusual for so many to occur at the same time.

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“It’s just a snowball effect, which means the industry is lacking on CO2,” he said. “So you need to go out and get it at all different locations, or you have to source it from different locations just to make sure you can stay in business. And that’s what we’re doing.”

The demand for dry ice has also skyrocketed, in part because COVID-19 vaccines such as Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s rely on it to maintain the low temperatures required for safe storage. Soda and beer consumption has also been up through the summer, and these beverages contain carbon dioxide.


Angela Yang can be reached at angela.yang@globe.com.