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How to Recycle Packing Peanuts

written by: Lara Stewart•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 2/10/2011

Most packing peanuts are made from plastic foam. This foam does not biodegrade, and often winds up in landfills. Learn how to recycle packing peanuts in order to do your part of keep them out of the waste stream.

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    Recycling Packing Peanuts

    6f1266487f866f61467432a1d86d8a9542050cf7 large Packing peanuts are one of those waste materials that can be hard to deal with. They are usually made of non-biodegradable materials. Plus, because they are light-weight and bulky, many recycling centers do not want to deal with them, since they take up too much room to be profitable.

    Even though most recycling centers will not take them, it is still worth checking with municipal recycling in your area to see if they recycle packing peanuts. Most city recycling programs have a list of what they will and will not take on their websites or in the phone book.

    There is an organization known as the Plastic Loose Fill Council that maintains a list of drop-off points where you can take packing peanuts to be recycled. Check their website to see if there is a drop off site near you.

    It is also a good idea to check with local shipping companies. Some chains and independent companies that use packing peanuts for shipping will accept donations and help you keep them out of the waste stream.

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    Focus on Reusing Instead

    packing peanuts If you are not able to find a place that will recycle packing peanuts, look for ways to reuse packing peanuts in and around your home. A few suggestions:

    • When potting plants, add an inch or so of packing peanuts before you add soil to the pot. The packing peanuts help with drainage much the same way that gravel does. As a bonus, using packing peanuts instead of gravel makes the pot more lightweight, which is a bonus when you need to move it.
    • Use packing peanuts as stuffing. They make serviceable bean bag fillings. Many people use them as a filling when making pet beds.
    • Sew a few packing peanuts into a small sack made from spandex, fleece or mesh and attach to your keys to make a quick and cheap floating keyring. These come in handy at the beach or on the open water. Plus, by reusing packing peanuts to make a floating keyring, you not only recycle, but also avoid the use of virgin materials.
    • Let your kids use packing peanuts in their art projects. Painted and glued to picture frames, packing peanuts add interesting textural interest.
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    Reduce the Amount of Packing Peanuts You Use

    One of the best ways to deal with waste that is hard to dispose of is to limit its use in the first place. When ordering items online, ask the shipper what sort of packing materials they use. If you ask, many independent shippers will be willing to pack your items in newspaper instead of packing peanuts during shipping.

    There are also packing peanuts that are made of a cornstarch material the dissolves in water. These packing peanuts are more expensive than those made of plastic foam. However, if you let merchants know that you would be willing to pay more to reduce your impact on the environment, you can possibly convince them to make the switch.

    Finally, when looking for shipping materials for shipping your own items, there are many options available besides buying plastic foam packing peanuts. If you already have plastic packing peanuts that have been used to ship items to you, you can recycle packing peanuts when you, in turn, ship items somewhere else. Newspaper, tissue paper and strips of paper from your shredder also make great packing materials. Some people even use popped popcorn as a cheap, biodegradable packing material in place of plastic packing peanuts.

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    Photo Credits - Bright Hub & Lara Stewart