How to Tell If Packing Peanuts Are Biodegradable

How to Tell If Packing Peanuts Are Biodegradable: What to Look Out For

Using biodegradable material and eco-friendly packaging is becoming more and more important these days. That being said, packing peanuts are very important to help secure any packaging that has come loose. 

When it comes to eco-friendliness, packing peanuts don’t have the best reputation. Since they’re often made of foam, and foam is well-known as being hazardous to the environment, it’s logical to make that assumption.

However, biodegradable packing peanuts are becoming more popular since they’re environmentally friendly. Many companies are trying to reduce their shipping supplies, impact on the environment, packing peanuts, and other filings used to protect the cargo.

But, what is the difference between regular packing peanuts and the packing peanuts that are biodegradable, and how to tell if packing peanuts are biodegradable? In this article, we’ll discuss why biodegradable packing peanuts are important, and provide you with all the information you need to recognize biodegradable packing peanuts.

What Is the Meaning of Biodegradable?

Biodegradable is any material that uses natural processes of decay in order to break down relatively quickly after being discarded. Natural oxidation reactions, weather, and bacteria come together to break down a substance that’s biodegradable until it has completely decayed.

The material that packing peanuts are usually made out of, known as Styrofoam, isn’t a biodegradable material. According to some reports, Styrofoam can take up to 500 years to decompose naturally.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Despite not being friendly for the environment, packing peanuts are a great solution for packing, and can do great things for protecting delicate and sensitive items such as glassware, ornaments, and electronics. The environmental impact of packing peanuts has caused many protests, which is why many manufacturers in the 1990s began experimenting with packing peanut alternatives that were starch-based. It was during that time that they managed to create biodegradable packing peanuts.

Biodegradable packing peanuts are made out of starches that are naturally derived, such as cornstarch and wheat. Biodegradable packing peanuts are plant-based and thereby can easily dissolve in water, which makes it impossible for them to pollute waterways, rivers, lakes, and oceans!

How to Tell If Packing Peanuts Are Biodegradable

A test that’s foolproof and easy to execute in order to tell if packing peanuts are biodegradable is to place a few of the packing peanuts under a faucet and turn the water on. The packing peanuts will begin to disintegrate and break down within a few minutes if they’re biodegradable. However, the packing peanuts won’t be affected by the water if they’re made out of Styrofoam.

There are many different colors that packing peanuts come in, most frequently white and pink Typically, the color of the packing peanut will tell you what type of material that it’s made of. However, when it comes to biodegradable peanuts, this doesn’t apply. Packing peanuts that are made of recycled materials are typically green, but this doesn’t mean that the peanuts are biodegradable.

Another way to check if the packing peanuts are biodegradable is simply to contact the manufacturer and ask! Peanuts that are made from materials that are plant-based, such as starches, are compostable and biodegradable. 

You can also try building static electricity, since packing peanuts made out of foam will gather static and stick to surfaces. On the other hand, packing peanuts that are biodegradable won’t stick to electronics, clothes, and other packaging materials.

Packing Peanuts Are Biodegradable

How to Dispose of Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Like we mentioned before, packing peanuts made out of Styrofoam takes centuries to decompose. On the other hand, once you expose biodegradable packing peanuts to warmth and moisture, they will immediately dissolve. 

Once you’ve used the biodegradable packing peanuts for whatever you need, they can be washed away in your home. If you live in a warmer climate, you can add them to your compost pile to disintegrate!

Since biodegradable peanuts are made of plant-based and natural starches, you won’t have to worry about the peanuts polluting the environment or destroying pipes once you have washed or dissolved them away.

Why Should You Use Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

Aside from the fact that biodegradable peanuts decompose very quickly in comparison to traditional packing peanuts, biodegradable packing peanuts are also a much better option for the environment. 

The production of biodegradable materials requires less energy and produces fewer greenhouse gasses than Styrofoam. The production of Styrofoam can even expose the workers to carcinogens that are dangerous.

Biodegradable packing peanuts use materials that are natural, and they aren’t toxic to the atmosphere, animals, plants, and humans. In case they get ingested by animals or humans, you don’t need to worry. However, don’t be tempted to eat them since they aren’t that tasty to consume!

Lastly, Styrofoam holds a static charge that biodegradable packing peanuts do not. This means that the peanuts won’t stick to the products they’re trying to protect, nor to your surroundings or you.

Make sure to look out for product weight, shipping availability, and cost competitiveness when shopping for biodegradable packing peanuts. Packaging and shipping materials can be some of your greatest friends on your quest to decrease your carbon footprint.  

To start making positive changes that focus on the environment, take a closer look at your recycling, shipping, and packing methods. Don’t forget to check whether the manufacturer is using biodegradable packing peanuts or recyclable cardboard packaging.

Pros and Cons of Biodegradable Peanuts

Like we mentioned before, the material that traditional packing peanuts are made out of, known as Styrofoam, is very hard to decompose. After it has been disposed of, it can end up floating around the ocean or in a landfill for decades.

On the other hand, biodegradable packing peanuts are made out of non-toxic and natural sources, such as corn starch and wheat. After just one use, you can throw them into a compost pile or even dissolve them in water.

Even though biodegradable packing peanuts that are starch-based are a more environmentally friendly option, they do have some drawbacks. Biodegradable packing peanuts often increase shipping costs since they weigh more than traditional packing peanuts. Many suppliers and consumers often choose reduced costs over eco-friendly options that are more expensive.


Our lives have definitely been made much easier with the invention of packing peanuts since they can protect even the most delicate items during the transportation process. However, what makes packing peanuts even better is if they are biodegradable. If the packing peanuts are biodegradable, you don’t have to worry about them harming the environment in any way!

Besides being somewhat hard to clean up, easy to lose, and producing static, packing peanuts made out of foam are also bad for the environment. Even though they’re not gone for good, many manufacturers have decided to back off from using foam packing peanuts.

While packing peanuts made from foam can cause damage to the planet for hundreds of years after you’ve disposed of them, packing peanuts that are biodegradable leave no microplastics, chemicals, or toxic residue. Except for the fact that they’re more environmentally friendly than foam packing peanuts, packing peanuts that are biodegradable produce fewer emissions during the process of production and they can be manufactured using fewer resources.

It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to invest in packing peanuts that are biodegradable. However, you should know that biodegradable packing peanuts aren’t the only sustainable option that’s offered on the market today. 

Some alternatives to sustainable packing and shipping options include sphagnum peat moss, unbuttered popcorn, and mushroom packaging. You should be fine with any of these options as long as you choose the one that will suit your needs the best!

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