Are Packing Peanuts Recyclable ?

Packing peanuts are comprised of expanded polystyrene, which is also called EPS or plastic number six. While packing peanuts technically can be recycled, they are light weight, and there is a large transport cost for these items. “Most curbside programs do not accept the material and you may have limited recycling options locally.”

Packing peanuts are color coated to let you know if they will be biodegradable or if they are mostly “earth unfriendly.” White and pink packing peanuts are the traditional kind – they are composed of 70% raw materials, and will take quite a while to decompose. These packing peanuts need to be recycled. Green packing peanuts truly are “green” – they are made up of 70% recycled material and will biodegrade easily.

If you are not sure what type of packing peanuts you have, do a brief test: run the peanuts under water for two minutes. If they break down under water, you can use them as compost in your gardening, or plant containers. If they do not break down, you will need to recycle them. EPS provides drop off locations were you can recycle packing peanuts. There is also a mail back program called “Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.” Simply mail your packing peanuts to them, and they will recycle the peanuts responsibly.

Although Packing Peanuts are Recyclable, Can We Use Alternatives or Reuse the Peanuts?

There are decent alternatives to packing peanuts. Already companies like Dell and Steelcase use foam like packaging that is comprised of mushrooms. Using the “green” peanuts as described above is also a favorable alternative to traditional packing peanuts.

You can also avoid using packing peanuts altogether. Use paper from your recycling bin to wrap around breakables – it protects your things just as well. Another option is to collect all of your packing peanuts and drop it off at a moving company such as the United Parcel Service. Or, you could simply save your packing peanuts and use them again next time you need to ship something or move.

Are Packing Peanuts Reusable?


Yes, there are a variety of different ways to re-use your packing peanuts. We have already mentioned that you can use packing peanuts as compost in your gardening and plant containers. If you have a pet, you can make a pillow for it out of these peanuts and a zippered pillow case. Packing peanuts are also useful when it comes to insulating ice chests- simply throw some in a plastic bag into the cooler, then throw ice in around the bag. The peanuts will keep your food and drinks cold.

Although packing peanuts may not seem like a huge threat to the environment, it is our job to dispose of them responsibly. When items like packing peanuts are not recycled or reused, they sit in our landfills, polluting the air and contaminating the soil. If we all took the time to reuse our materials, or at least recycle them, the world would be a better place for us all. Packing peanuts are recyclable, and reusable as well – so it is our duty to recycle them and reuse them.


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