Tools and materials

14 ways to recycle packing peanuts

So the item you ordered just arrives and when you finally opened it, the first thing you notice is the layers upon layers of white peanut packing. As you dig deeper to reach for your precious item, the question often reverberating behind your mind is:

‘God, what am I going to do with all these packing peanuts now?’

For many regular shoppers, this scenario is not very surprising or uncommon. Thousands of shipping companies the world over makes use of peanut packing to package rather fragile items. The peanut packing helps protect most fragile items from damage while in transit.

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While this intention is born purely out of the need to protect the rather fragile items you ordered, it does not take away the fact that you’ll need to go through the trouble of personally disposing of the many peanut packing that does come with shipped items.

One major worry about peanut packing is the ease with which they can litter the environment and make everywhere seem untidy. Fortunately, peanut packing can easily be recycled and instead of leaving them lying around, you can easily get rid of them.

Below we provide you with ten creative ways of recycling peanut packing for a peanut packing free home

Are packing peanuts recyclable?

Though most times we confuse packing peanuts with other Styrofoam; a trademarked name by  Dow Chemical Company, Packing peanuts are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Since expanded products cannot be unexpanded, packing peanuts technically cannot be recycled. Recycling most often involves converting a finished product into its raw state and using the raw material to create the same or different product.

Since already expanded polystyrene cannot be unexpanded, we cannot recycle packing peanuts. The best way to ‘recycle’ packing peanuts is through reuse.

Not all packing peanuts are made from the non-biodegradable polystyrene. Some are made from environmentally friendly raw materials like starch.

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These types of packing peanuts are biodegradable and are far easier to dispose of. Green packing peanuts, however, attract rodents and other pests which could also damage the items in transit. As such most companies refrain from using these types of packing peanuts.

Green packing peanuts can easily be distinguished from polystyrene. To tell if a packing peanut is made from starch or polystyrene, simply add a few of the packing peanut to a glass of water and let it stand for a few minutes.

If the packing peanuts begin to melt, then it is made from starch if otherwise then it’s made from polystyrene.


Can you recycle Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a trademark name which has become associated with polystyrene products. All Styrofoam is considered as polystyrene but not all polystyrene are Styrofoam’s; certainly not packing peanuts.

Styrofoam’s are recyclable but the process is not very economical and as such the material is often rejected in most local recycling plants. For one, most used Styrofoam’s will have been contaminated by foods and coffee which are not easy to get off.

Also considering the economics of recycling, it would be far less expensive to manufacture new products than using used Styrofoam’s as the base. Because of these, most times it is recommended that you dump your Styrofoam waste in a trash bin instead of putting them in the recycle bin.

The Styrofoam in the trash bin is then used as landfills and since they are non-biodegradable, they will remain in shape and form for years underground.

14 ways to recycle packing peanuts

Use them for their intended purposes

Most times when we get packages filled with packing peanuts the only thing we worry about is how to get rid of them.

These packing peanuts can actually come handy when you really need to ship fragile items to friends and relatives.

As such you may want to pack the packing peanuts in a tight carton or other container and keep them in a closet until you need them.

stacked shipping cases

Return them to the shipping company

If you receive a product with lots of packing peanuts you may want to inquire as to whether the shipping company will take them back.

Most times they will be happy to take the packing peanuts from you if they are relatively clean and undamaged since they will be able to use them for other customers.


Donate them 

If the shipping company who brought the products and the packing peanuts to you won’t take them back, you may want to look for other businesses handling numerous shipping who will like to take the packing peanuts.

There are lots of UPS stores in many areas which will gladly take these packing off your hand. If you have trouble locating one of these stores, try searching for them online or using Google Map.

You may also want to ask your friends and see if they have a need for packing peanuts and would be willing to take them off your hands or better still post a free ad on Craigslist for persons who are interested in free packing peanuts.


Use the packing peanuts instead of rock at the bottom of the plant

 Rocks are often used at the bottom of plants in pots as they allow for free drainage at the bottom. Fortunately, packing peanuts also offer these benefits to potted plants.

Since packing peanuts do not decay easily, you won’t have to worry about the smell. Also packing peanuts are considerably lighter than rocks making it easier for you to move your potted plants from one place to another.

To use packing peanuts instead of rocks for your potted plant:

    • Carefully, remove the top materials from the plant pot
    • Remove all the rocks at the bottom. Do this carefully so you don’t end up bruising the plant roots or stem
    • Once all the rocks have been removed, add the packing peanuts to the pot until
    • Cover them with the manure and water as normal.


As filling for pets bed

Packing peanuts are lightweight and considerably soft. As such they could be used as bed filling for pets.

Since packing peanuts do not suck up moisture quickly as other types of foam commonly used in pet’s bed, they can be an excellent choice of material for pets which still wet the bed.

Using packing peanuts as your pets’ bed filling is quite easy:

    • First off, open up the bed material and remove the old foam. Ensure you follow the seam closely while opening the bed so you don’t end up damaging it.
    • Fill the material with the peanut packing and then sew it close
    • You can give this to a professional tailor to help you do it at a reasonable fee

You can also make use of packing peanuts as your pillow filling as they are considered soft and lightweight. Simply follow the above steps and you would have a fluffy pillow for yourself in no time.


Use packing peanuts to keep drinks cool

Thinking of going on a picnic with friends or family members? Get your packing peanuts together and use them to keep your drinks cool for as long as the picnic lasts.

Cold foods and drinks become warm when they gain heats from their environment. Heat travels from hotter areas to colder areas. Since the environment will be hotter than your refrigerated drinks, heat will flow from the environment to them, warming them up.

You can use your packing peanuts as insulators to block heat and maintain the temperature of your drinks. Foams do not allow heat to pass through them easily as such they are often used in the bodies of most coolers.

To use packing peanuts to keep drinks cold:

    • Fill plastic bags with the packing peanuts.
    • Puts the filled bags at the bottom and sides of the container you wish to put the ice and drinks
    • Now put the drinks and then cover the top with more packing peanuts in plastic bags.


Use packing peanuts keep keys afloat

When you’re out in the water either boating or swimming, you can tie a few packing peanuts on your keys or the kid’s toy to keep them from sinking if they fell into the water.

Most lifeguard equipment such as the life vest which can help you stay afloat in water consist of foams like the ones used in making packing peanuts.

Since these foams are considerably lightweight, they are hard to be dragged to the bottom of swimming pools or rivers, making them an excellent choice to keep you from losing valuables when you’re in the water.

To keep objects afloat with packing peanuts, simply thread a few packing peanuts around a thread and tie the thread to the object. This will stay afloat when the object is in the water.


Let the kids have the packing peanuts for their craft projects

well packaged box

Craft projects often involve the use of solid materials and glue to create animals and things. Instead of letting the packing peanuts sit around or go straight to the trash bin, you can let your kids use them for their crafts projects.

With just glue and a solid flat paper like the cardboards, kids will be happy to create beautiful crafts using just the packing peanuts.

Ensure kids are properly supervised when playing with packing peanuts as they are quite small in size and some may mistake them for candies.

Optionally, you can donate the packing peanuts to teachers in nursery schools for their kids’ craft projects.


Tighten loose screws

If you have a loose screw, you can tighten it easily using a packing peanut. Simply drive the screw into the packing peanut first before using it in the intended hole.

The packing peanut bits in-between the threads of the screw will take up any additional space between the thread and the material ensuring the screw stays in place.

Also, if you worry about hitting your fingers with the hammer when driving nails into woods, you can use a packing peanut to keep the nail upright while hammering and then remove it when you’re done.


Cover for sharp pointed tools

 Worried about leaving sharp pointed objects lying around because of the kids? Well, you should as kids can easily run into these objects and injure themselves.

Packing peanuts can help you prevent all these troubles. You can use them as covers for sharply pointed items like scissors, needle-point pliers or screws.

Simply drive the sharp pointed end of the item into the packing peanuts and you would have covered item, making them harmless. Ensure the sharp pointed end does not penetrate through to the other end of the packing peanut.


Decorate your Christmas tree packing peanuts

Packing peanuts can make for great Christmas tree decoration if you’re willing to put some thoughts into it.

You can sew them together into a long thread which you can use as ‘fruits’ on your Christmas tree or paint them and use to add more color to the Christmas tree.


Use packing peanuts for your Halloween costumes

You can sew packing peanuts into your Halloween costumes and create special effects like potbelly, stuffed scarecrow or rippling muscles.

Since packing peanuts are incredibly lightweight, you won’t have to worry about moving in such Halloween costumes.


Dissolve the starch packing peanuts

If the packing peanut you receive is the biodegradable type made from starch, you can easily dispose of it by dissolving it a can with hot water after which you can pour it down the drain or better still cut them into small sizes and mix them with your plant manure.

The starch-based packing peanut will dissolve with the manure and serve as additional nutrients for your plants.


Call the Plastics Loose Fill Council (PLFC)

He plastic loose fill council will accept your packing peanuts for recycling or reuses provided they have not been damaged.

They have strategic locations throughout the country where you can drop off your packing peanuts for pickup.

If you are having trouble finding a location closer to you, you can check on their websites or give them a call and they will direct you to one of their drop off center closest to you.

Reusing packing peanuts is a lot easier and economically more feasible than recycling them. Above are the top creative ways to reuse or recycle your packing peanuts.

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