How to recycle packing peanuts

Packing peanuts made from polystyrene can decompose for hundreds of years. They can be a problem because the peanuts are light, so they are easily scattered and blown away. If they are not protected from static electricity, they will cling to clothing and other fabrics. If you recycle packing peanuts, that helps you avoid adding them to landfills or accumulating around your home.

Packing paper
Have you considered replacing packing peanuts wit something else?

For those of you who are thinking about purchasing packing peanuts to protect items during the move, first consider alternatives. Plain newspaper, rolled socks and soft toys can also serve as protection when packing fragile items. And if you are sure that packing peanuts are what you need to safely move your stuff, then you need to know how to identify the good, the bad and the ugly.

Know your colors

Believe it or not, packing peanuts are now color-coded so you can easily determine which ones are more environmentally friendly:

  • White and pink: this is a traditional packing peanut, which most of us see when ordering electronics or glassware. The colors white and pink indicate that the materials used to make packing peanuts are 70 percent unprocessed, which means that non-recycled materials were used in their production. This is a peanut that does not break and needs recycling.
  • Green: Naturally, green packing peanuts are the most friendly you can get. They are made from 70 percent recycled materials and can destroy the environment. So, if you are going to buy packing peanuts to protect your valuables, then make sure it is green!

What are the ways to recycle packing peanuts

  • Ask the company to take them back. If you received a package with packing peanuts, find out if the company will take them back. Most likely, they will agree, because they will be able to reuse them for another client, which will save the company money.
  • Find a drop-off center. Although you most likely will not be able to recycle packing peanuts in your baskets at home, there are places where you can take them for recycling. The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers has a list of recycling locations by state.
  • Send them to a recycling center. Although you may have to pay for shipping, many companies will accept packing peanuts for free.
Recycling sign
If you recycle packing peanuts, you can do a lot for saving the Earth

Donate packing peanuts

  • Donate to shipping companies. If the company that sent them to you does not want to take them back, then check with large shipping companies if they accept your packing peanuts. Moving companies may also agree to accept them. UPS stores in many areas will happily take this peanut from you.
  • Give them to your friends. Ask your friends and family if they are using packing peanuts. If someone you know moves or ships many items, they may need this peanut for their own use.
  • Post your ad online. Sites like Craigslist are great for getting rid of things you don’t need. Post an announcement that you have a free package of peanuts for those who come for them. Just be careful with scammers. You should meet a person who would like to receive a package of peanuts in a place other than your home.
  • Give them to the nearest school or community center. Schools and centers are often grateful for receiving free items. Ask your local school or community center if they can use packing peanuts for craft projects or even for delivery.

Reuse them

  • Store them. One day you can use these packing peanuts, so keep them until you do. Who knows, maybe you will move again, and you could use saving some money on packing materials. They are lightweight and love to fly around, creating a mess, so try to keep them in a box, a trash bag or even in old tights to keep them locked up.
  • Put them on the bottom of the planter. They will allow your plant to properly drain and be hidden from view. Since they are very light, they will also facilitate moving and lifting of the planter.
  • Keep your keys from flooding. When you find yourself on the water, pass a few polystyrene packing peanuts through the keyring. They will help keep your keys afloat.
  • Sew packing peanuts in costumes for Halloween or other holidays. Use them to make a fat belly, wavy muscles, or stuff. Lightweight makes them comfortable for children.
  • Decorate your Christmas tree. Instead of using popcorn, pack the peanuts together. You can even add glitter or color to make them more festive.
  • Make pillows or cushions. Fill a zippered pillowcase with peanuts to make a pillow for your pet. This will provide an easy, cool place to rest your pet.
Cat in a box
It’s much better than letting your pets use a box of packing peanuts as a bed

Creative ways to use packing peanuts

Before you recycle packing peanuts, first think about some creative ways you can use them. Here are some ideas:

  • Make a craft project. If you have children, they can make a snowman out of a peanut, a snake, or any other creature. Just glue them and decorate as you want.
  • Isolate coolers or lunch boxes. Fill the plastic bag with the zipper with packing peanuts and insert it into the ice chest. Ice in the refrigerator will last longer, and the contents will stay cold longer. Use a small plastic zipper bag filled with packing peanuts and ice to keep food cool in a lunch bag.
  • Attach things to packing peanuts. Glue a small magnet to the packing peanuts and attach it to the refrigerator. Use a pin to attach notes and lists.
  • Turn them into stamps. Print album sheets or self-made cards with packing peanuts dipped in paint. Many of the peanuts already resemble letters, or you can cut them into shapes. For example, some are in the form of “S” or “C”, but you can cut them in half to make a crescent stamp. You can also cut them to resemble squares or triangles, or even glue the two pieces together to make circles.
  • Cover sharp tools. Use packing peanuts to cover sharp tips, such as on pliers or even screwdrivers. This will prevent an accidental punch or kick when someone is digging into the toolkit.

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