Sustainability made simple

Are Packing Peanuts Recyclable? Here’s What You Need to Know

Packing Peanuts
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / sipa

There’s no doubt that using environmentally-friendly shipping materials is a challenge. In this article, we’ll explore whether or not packing peanuts are recyclable, when to use them, and what some better, more sustainable alternatives are.

Not Recycable: What Packing Peanuts Are Made Of

A landfill becomes a dumping ground for non-biodegradable waste.
A landfill becomes a dumping ground for non-biodegradable waste. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / vkingxl)

The first thing to note about packing peanuts is they are not recyclable. Packing peanuts are made of foam polystyrene (plastic #6), which does not biodegrade or break down. According to the Green Dining Alliance, #6 plastics are often sorted out at the recycling facility and sent overseas to be melted down or burned as fuel. So, while many waste-disposal programs accept #6 plastics, they are rarely actually recycled and reused.

If you find yourself with a shipment that contains packing peanuts, it is a good idea to save them for the next time you have to pack something up to store/ship. However, keeping a bunch of packing peanuts around the house isn’t necessarily a practical option for many. So, if you need to get rid of them, it is a good idea to contact your local FedEx, UPS, or other shipping office to see if they have packing peanut recycling programs.

Aside from packing peanuts, there are opportunities to recycle a variety of other uncommon items. Ever wondered how to recycle other random household items, like light bulbs? Check out our guides How To Recycle Light Bulbs and What To Do With An Old Phone.

What To Do About Packing Peanuts: Alternatives

Newspapers are a great recyclable alternative to packing peanuts.
Newspapers are a great recyclable alternative to packing peanuts. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels)

Since they are not recyclable, the most environmentally responsible practice is to avoid packing peanuts altogether. So, what are some alternatives for when we want to pack and ship fragile items?

Old newspapers

The old standby. These can serve as an effective substitute, especially when they are crumpled up in heavy layers.

Old clothes or linens

What better way to make use of old items that you find around your house? Instead of throwing them out, use old jeans, bed sheets, comforters, or t-shirts to pack up your items. These can also secure fragile items and ensure their safety.

P.S. Have extra clothes lying around that you don’t know what to do with? Check out these 6 Great Places To Buy and Sell Secondhand Clothes Online

Strips of cardboard

Cut out strips of cardboard from a box and use it to wrap up the materials in question. Pieces of cardboard can provide excellent protection for fragile materials.

Biodegradable packing peanuts

If packing peanuts are absolutely necessary for your shipping endeavors, it’s best to use biodegradable options made of corn starch. These perform the same duties as your traditional packing peanuts but dissolve in water and can be thrown into the compost.

Sustainable Shipping: Avoiding Packing Peanuts And Helping The Planet

As with most aspects of living sustainably, finding ethical shipping materials requires extra research and diligence. However, taking those extra steps can go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint and helping the environment. When it comes to packing peanuts, try to avoid them by using alternative options when possible.

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