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Are Packing Peanuts Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?

biodegradable packing peanuts

Many people have used packing peanuts for years to protect products during shipping. However, the small peanuts are messy and can take up a great deal of space. If you are also trying to be more environmentally friendly, you might be wondering if there’s a way to recycle them. The short answer is yes, packing peanuts are recyclable. However, there are several different kinds, and you will need to dispose of them in different ways.

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How Do They Make Packing Peanuts?

Most packing peanuts are made from polystyrene, a type of plastic. Manufacturers force air into the plastic, which causes it to expand and turn into a lightweight foam product that is quite durable.

Why Are Packing Peanuts Different Colors?

Pink and White

Packing peanuts can be many different colors, and it isn’t always an easy way to identify which ones are which. That said, pink and white packing peanuts are generally made from raw materials instead of recycled materials. Both colors have the same ingredients, but pink peanuts usually have an anti-static agent for shipping electronics.


Manufacturers usually make green packing peanuts from recycled materials, so they are usually the better choice if you have the option. They work just as well, but the recycled ingredients make them slightly better for the environment. However, they are not biodegradable, so you will still need to find a way to dispose of them properly.

white packing peanut and a red tape
Image By: RODNAE Productions, Pexels

Do They Make Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

Yes, biodegradable packing peanuts exist, and they are usually off-white or beige. Manufacturers make these peanuts from plant material, like corn starch and sorghum, that dissolves in water. Since they biodegrade, you don’t need to be as concerned about throwing them in the trash, and they are naturally anti-static, so they are safe to use with electronics. The downside to these peanuts is that they are more expensive than standard packing peanuts.

How Do I Dispose of Packing Peanuts?

Curbside Pickup

We recommend contacting your local trash-collecting company to see if you can throw your packing peanuts in the trash. Some places might allow it, but most will require you to take other steps to dispose of them.

Takeback Programs

Many companies that use packing peanuts are aware of their environmental danger and are willing to take back the peanuts to use them for future orders. This system removes the peanuts from your house and puts them to use. Some companies may accept them even if you got them somewhere else. Check with the United Parcel Service (UPS) and any local shipping companies.

Mail-In Recycling

The Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance is an organization that helps recycle packing peanuts and other plastics. It was able to recycle more than 136 million pounds of peanuts in 2019.

woman holding packing peanuts
Image Credit: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

Other Options for Recycling Packing Peanuts

  • You can use your spare packing peanuts to make a beanbag that you can sit on.
  • Breaking the packing peanuts into smaller pieces and adding them to your potting soil can help make it better draining while retaining moisture.
  • Add packing peanuts to your cooler when you travel to help keep the items hot or cold for longer.
  • Use them during your pedicure to keep your toes apart.
  • Slide packing peanuts over the exposed edges of razor blades and other sharp objects to improve safety.
  • Gluing packing peanuts to the backs of picture frames can help protect your walls from scrapes and chips while they hang.
  • Packing peanuts are great for crafts, so put them to use on your next project or save them for your children. They are easy to paint and glue, so their use in crafts is almost limitless.
  • If you will need to move soon, save the peanuts in a large bag so you can put them to use protecting your items.

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While packing peanuts are recyclable, finding the best way to accomplish it can be difficult. Many municipalities don’t want you to throw them in the curbside trash, so you may need to take them directly to a recycling plant. The United Parcel System and any local shipping companies might be willing to recycle them for you, or you can try to put them to use around your home. If you are purchasing peanuts for your projects, we recommend purchasing plant-based biodegradable peanuts that dissolve in water for easy disposal, though they will likely be more expensive.

Featured Image Credit: Urban by Habit, Shutterstock


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