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Are Packing Peanuts Recyclable? How To Tell

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Companies and individuals have been using packing peanuts to ship goods safely for as long as they have sent them. Because they are made of polystyrene, you can use tens of thousands of them when you move, but after you’ve unpacked, many people want to know are packing peanuts are recyclable before they dispose of them.

In this article, I will outline every aspect of conventional packing peanuts and how to learn which ones are safe for the environment and which are biodegradable.

what are packing peanuts made of?

Packing peanuts come in different colors, including white, green, pink, off-white, or beige. Most non-biodegradable peanuts are made from polystyrene or styrofoam.

This color scheme can be misleading as only some of these colored peanuts are recyclable; white peanuts are made of standard non-biodegradable polystyrene.

Green indicates they are made from recycled material and pink meaning they are antistatic but still made from polystyrene.

Only off-white and beige peanuts are usually biodegradable.

How To Tell If Packing Peanuts Are Biodegradable or Recyclable?

The easiest way to tell if packing peanuts are biodegradable is by their color and then with a simple test.

Biodegradable peanuts are off-white or beige in color, and when placed in water for several minutes, they will start to disintegrate.

On the other hand, recyclable packing peanuts will not dissolve in water and come in various colors that signify how they are made.

what color are biodegradable packing peanuts

  • White – Made from standard non-biodegradable polystyrene (Styrofoam)
  • Green – Made from recycled materials but generally not biodegradable.
  • Pink – Made from antistatic polystyrene.
  • Off-white or Beige – Are starch-based (wheat and corn starch) and will dissolve in water

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

  • Made of vegetable starch
  • 3cu. ft (22.5 Gallons)
  • Naturally biodegradable
  • Made in USA

Packing peanuts in these colors is typically recyclable, but you may have to contact a recycling facility or a takeback program to dispose of them properly.

This is because your run-of-the-mill curbside recycling programs do not tend to accept them. 

Only beige or off-white peanuts are not made of styrofoam and are considered biodegradable.

The main disadvantage of these eco-friendly packing peanuts is that they are generally heavier and therefore push up shipping costs. This factor alone will put off a lot of companies from using them.

Are White, Pink and Green Styrofoam Packing Peanuts Recyclable

Styrofoam is the common word for polystyrene packing peanuts. Pink, white, and green peanuts are made from this type of material and are recyclable.

Green peanuts are already made from recyclable polystyrene. 

Are Peanuts Environmentally Friendly?

biodegradable packing peanuts

No, by no means are standard packing peanuts friendly to the environment.

Due to the fact they are made from polystyrene, they will spend years, if not decades, in lakes, landfills, and oceans if they are not disposed of correctly or recycled. 

What Do I Do With Packing Peanuts?

Besides being used for shipping purposes, a few other creative ideas allow you to utilize packing peanuts in and around the home.

These ideas are great if you have an excessive amount or can’t seem to get them recycled.

Some ideas include;

  • They can be used as a pot plant filler
  • They can be used to fill or make a bean bag chair
  • They can be used as an insulator for your cooler
  • Stick them at the back of paintings or wall ornaments to protect your walls
  • You can use them for arts and crafts

How Long Does It Take For Biodegradable Packing Peanuts To Decompose?

Biodegradable packing peanuts only take a couple of minutes to dissolve in water. Depending on how many you have, it may take a little bit longer, but a couple of minutes is the norm.

You can also add them to your garden compost. Not only will they decompose but they will also insulate the compost heap, helping to retain the heat and help decompose other materials.

How Do You Get Rid Of Dissolvable Packing Peanuts?

The best way to dissolve biodegradable packing peanuts is to place them in a large bucket and fill it with water.

Once the peanuts have dissolved, one option is to pour the bucket out into one of your outside drains.

However, as they do not harm the environment, you will probably be better off using water to water your garden.

Can I Put Packing Peanuts Down The Drain?

Unless the peanuts have been dissolved already, shoving biodegradable packing peanuts down your drain is not recommended.

First, check to see if they are biodegradable, and if they are, then use the process I mentioned above to dispose of them.

If they are not biodegradable, then you should do your part and have them recycled.

Are Packing Peanuts Harmful To The Environment?

As I stated above, packing peanuts are made from polystyrene, which is not biodegradable, and if thrown away or placed in landfills, they will take years to disintegrate.

Biodegradable peanuts are made from all-natural materials, including corn starch and wheat. These are perfectly safe for the environment.

Can You Put Bubble Wrap In The Recycling Bin?

At this stage, bubble wrap is manufactured in a way that is not recyclable. Therefore, you should not put it in the recycling bin but instead in the trash bin.

Pink antistatic packing peanuts

Are Packing Peanuts Toxic?

Polystyrene packing peanuts are indeed toxic to human beings if they are ingested.

When polystyrene is exposed to acid or heat, it breaks down and releases toxic chemicals. If burned, the gas it will produce is harmful and can impair the nervous system. 

Conversely, biodegradable packing peanuts are non-toxic and safe if humans and animals ingest them.

However, their nutritional value is removed in manufacturing, and they are not recommended for eating.

In Summary

Although standard packing peanuts aren’t made of an eco-friendly material most made nowadays are recyclable.

However, you may need to call a recycling plant or a takeback program to eliminate them because many recycling programs cannot take them.

The recyclable packing peanut colors are white, pink, and green.

Besides being recyclable, you also get biodegradable packing peanuts that are much safer for the environment. Where possible, you should always attempt to use them.