Styrofoam Packing Peanuts VS Biodegradable Packing Peanuts (13 Facts you didn’t Know)

There are two types of packing peanuts: Styrofoam which is made of polystyrene and biodegradable which is made of vegetable material.

Packing peanuts

Strofoam Peanuts vs Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Styrofoam packing peanuts have a negative effect on the environment. They can be recycled but take over 500 years to decompose.

Biodegradable packing peanuts are nontoxic and can be rinsed away in your sink.

Companies still choose Styrofoam packing peanuts over green biodegradable options because of the price. Styrofoam is lighter and costs less to ship. It is also cheaper to produce.

An interesting fact about Styrofoam packing peanuts is that they produce static electricity and cannot be used to ship with electronics. This means biodegradable packing peanuts are a better option for shipping electronic-based products.

Are packing peanuts environmentally safe?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are environmentally safe and made out of similar material to Cheetos cheese puffs. The material is nontoxic and safe to be rinsed down the sink.

Styrofoam packing peanuts are not safe for the environment and often end up in the ocean or in a landfill for hundreds of years. The polystyrene in Styrofoam is bad for marine life and the chemical found in Styrofoam called styrene has been known to cause disease and cancer in humans.

Are packing peanuts toxic to humans?

Styrofoam packing peanuts are not toxic when they are used for packaging. They do not give off toxins that will harm you if you handle them.

Styrofoam products should not be eaten as Styrofoam can cause internal blockages. Styrofoam is known to have long-term negative effects on humans.

The World Health Organization classifies Styrofoam as a probable carcinogen. Styrene, the chemical found in Styrofoam, is used in many single-use plastic products.

Can you eat biodegradable packing peanuts?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are safe to eat. They are made with vegetable materials like corn, grain, or potatoes.

The only problem that may arise from ingesting biodegradable packing peanuts is that they are not made in food-safe facilities and may not be clean enough to consume. It is best not to eat them.

How do you dispose of biodegradable peanuts?

To dispose of biodegradable packing peanuts you can compost them or simply rinse them down the drain.

The biodegradable packing peanuts are nontoxic and the wheat or corn starch material easily washes down the drain without harming your pipes.

Can biodegradable packing peanuts be composted?

Biodegradable packing peanuts can be composted. They can also be used in any worm farm or indoor compost machine. They will decompose or degrade within a few days.

How to tell if packing peanuts are biodegradable?

There is a very easy way to know if packing peanuts are biodegradable. Simply run one or two of the packing peanuts under warm water for a minute. If the peanuts start to wash away in the water they are biodegradable. These peanuts can be washed down the drain or placed in the compost.

If the packing peanuts do not wash down the drain and hold their shape they are Styrofoam and cannot biodegrade. Styrofoam packing peanuts can be recycled at many cities recycle depots. It is best to call ahead to make sure your specific recycle center will take Styrofoam.

How long does it take for biodegradable packing peanuts to decompose?

Biodegradable packing peanuts can decompose in a matter of days. Made of wheat or corn starch they are FDA approved. The packing peanuts have a similar make-up as Cheetos. The foam-like vegetable matter is great in any compost.

Can you dissolve packing peanuts in the sink?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are well known to dissolve in water. They do however need agitation to make them safe for your pipes. A simple shake and mix in the sink will ensure the peanuts are fully dissolved before they go down the drain.

Some cities prefer that the packing peanuts are disposed of in the compost bin as they can gum up septic and water systems.

There is very little evidence that packing peanuts will have any long-term effects on your home’s piping system or a septic tank.

Can biodegradable packing peanuts attract pests?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are made with FDA-approved food-grade wheat, potato, or corn starch. Food products come at a heightened risk of attracting pests. Packing peanuts however have no flavoring or scents added to them.

You’re at an increased risk of attracting pests if biodegradable packing peanuts are left out without any protection. If the peanuts become wet in any way they will turn into a paste and can start to mold.

How do you get rid of Styrofoam packing peanuts?

Styrofoam packing peanuts will not decompose in your lifetime. It takes an average of 500 years for them to decompose in the landfill. There are two ways to dispose of Styrofoam packing peanuts.

  1. Put them in the trash
  2. Recycle them

Many recycling plants and bottle depots will accept Styrofoam. Packing peanuts are often made with recycled material to decrease their negative effects on the environment.

Companies will color-packing peanuts to let people know how much recycled material they contain. Green Styrofoam packing peanuts contain an average of 70% recycled material.

Not all cities or recycle centers will accept Styrofoam, and it is best to call prior to bringing it in.

Do packing peanuts have an odor?

Styrofoam packing peanuts do not have a noticeable scent. Biodegradable packing peanuts can hold the faint scent of popcorn or corn starch. This smell is not noticeable unless held close to your nose. It will not cause a product to smell if it is used in a shipment.

Are packing peanuts pet safe?

Styrofoam packing peanuts can be harmful to dogs if ingested. Styrofoam is a known toxic carcinogen that can cause dogs to get sick. Styrofoam can also get stuck in the digestive system of a dog and cause blockages that can be fatal. If your dog ingests a large amount of Styrofoam packing peanuts it is advised to contact a vet immediately.

Biodegradable packing peanuts are not toxic and do not cause pets any harm. If your dog eats many biodegradable packing peanuts they will pass the peanuts on their own and there is no need to call a vet.

My dog ate my packing peanuts, what do I do?

If your dog has eaten Styrofoam packing peanuts, call your vet immediately. The ASPCA does not advise you to do anything without speaking to a professional first.

Styrofoam packing peanuts are a choking hazard and do not decompose or move through the digestive system easily. Styrofoam can cause blockages in your dog that can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Packing peanuts are also known as loose-fill packaging. They have been used since 1965. They are used widely as a shipping filler. The peanut-like shape is what gave them their name. Biodegradable options have only been around since the ’90s.

Biodegradable packing peanuts cost more to make and ship but have a large impact on the environment. Producing biodegradable packing peanuts uses less energy than their Styrofoam counterpart.

The major downfall when using biodegradable options is their sensitivity to liquids and damage while shipping. Biodegradable packing peanuts have not replaced Styrofoam completely but will likely take over as more and more cities ban the use of Styrofoam and single-use plastics.


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