Pros and Cons of Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

06.29.16 // Heritage Paper

Loose fill packaging peanuts are often thought of as a nuisance, making a mess once packages are opened and clinging to clothes long after.   Not only do people find them irritating, but they are also harmful to the environment.

Yet loose fill packing peanuts are still around, despite their drawbacks. Due to their low production costs and ability to protect items in standard-size corrugated shipping containers, eliminating the need to raise costs for customized boxes, consumers and suppliers continue to choose packing peanuts. Fortunately, with the increasing awareness of the materials’ impact on the environment, biodegradable packing peanuts are now available as a more eco-friendly alternative to the traditional polystyrene peanuts. Here, we will examine the pros and cons of biodegradable peanuts.

Pros: Composed of polystyrene, a plastic polymer better known as Styrofoam, traditional loose fill packing peanuts are difficult to decompose. After disposal, they can end up in a landfill or floating around the ocean for many, many years. Biodegradable packing peanuts are made from natural, nontoxic sources, such as wheat and corn starch. They dissolve in water and can be thrown into compost piles after a single use. In addition, biodegradable foam peanuts do not have an electrostatic charge, meaning they will not stick to clothes.

Cons: Biodegradable starch-based packing peanuts may be a more environmentally-friendly option, but they do have their disadvantages. With a higher weight than traditional packing peanuts, the eco-friendly version increases shipping costs. Production also has higher costs than traditional packing peanuts, and in a challenging economy, many consumers and suppliers will often choose reduced costs over greener, more expensive alternatives. Many recycling programs accept Styrofoam packing peanuts, which are recycled and color coded to indicate material origins. Green peanuts are made from at least 70% recycled materials.

For more information on loose fill packaging peanuts and other sustainable packaging solutions, contact Heritage Paper today.


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