What Are Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Made Of

What Are Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Made Of: Everything You Need to Know

Packing peanuts are used to cushion objects during the transportation process. They are usually made from polystyrene, a non-biodegradable plastic used to make styrofoam. This plastic has a bad reputation, especially since it’s known to take hundreds of years to decompose. That is, if it ever decomposes at all.

Luckily, we now have better alternatives, such as biodegradable packing peanuts. Now, you might be wondering, what are biodegradable peanuts made of?

Keep reading to know more about biodegradable packing peanuts, what they’re made of, and why they are good for you and the environment!

What Are Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Made Of?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are often created from various agricultural products, such as sorghum, corn, or wheat. They are renewable, biodegradable, and harmless if consumed accidentally. These materials are often referred to as “corn-based” because they’re usually made from non-toxic sources of corn starch.

However, biodegradable packing peanuts can either be wholly starch-based, which is a mix of starch and polymers that’s then converted into Polylactic Acid (PLA), otherwise known as PLA.

As a result, there are three types of biodegradable packing peanuts: wholly starch-based packing peanuts, plastic-based PLA packing peanuts, and starch-based PLA packing peanuts.

Wholly Starch-Based Packing Peanuts

Wholly starch-based packing peanuts are completely composed of an agricultural film, such as corn or wheat starch. This is the ideal biodegradable packing material since it contains no additives and is entirely eco-friendly!

Corn starch is one of the most common ingredients found in biodegradable packing peanuts. It can easily be broken down into carbon dioxide and water when exposed to air.

This process happens naturally over time without any human intervention. The only thing needed is exposure to oxygen. This means that it can break down quickly once it’s placed inside an enclosed area.

There are different ways to make this happen. One way is to expose them to sunlight. As long as there is enough water present, cornstarch stays moist. If not, then it dries out quickly.

This process can be sped up by adding water. Once it’s exposed to the sun, the corn starch softens and becomes moldable, which makes packing peanuts biodegradable!

Starch-Based Plastic Peanuts

Starch-based plastic peanuts are considered to be the “evil twin” of wholly starch-based packing peanuts. That’s because they’re not truly biodegradable and are actually known for causing numerous environmental problems.

Starch-based plastic peanuts are degradable in the presence of heat and moisture. For instance, when placed in an enclosed area, they will break down into small chunks that can block drainage systems.

These biodegradable packing peanuts will break down under normal composting conditions within two years, but could take several months in colder climates.

Starch-based plastic is made of PLA. PLA can be produced from certain types of raw materials like corn, tapioca roots, and sugar cane. The production process starts with the biological conversion of crops into dextrose or lactic acid by microorganisms.

These products are then processed into plastic that’s then molded into the desired shape and form to create biodegradable packing peanuts.

These products are more environmentally friendly than traditional packing peanuts as there are no harmful additives present. This is because they are compostable and biodegradable.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Made Of

Plastic-Based PLA Packing Peanuts

Another type of biodegradable packing peanuts are plastic-based PLA packing peanuts. These products are made entirely from corn or sugar cane and an added petroleum product, known as polylactic acid.

Although these products do contain the word “biodegradable,” they cannot be recycled and will still sit in a landfill for years. Since these types of biodegradable packing peanuts are petroleum-based, it takes a long time for them to break down since oil isn’t as easily biodegradable as other materials.

Although these products will end up sitting in a landfill for a long time, they will decompose quickly when exposed to humidity.

The main difference between starch-based and plastic-based PLA packing peanuts is in the production process: plastic peanuts are made from petroleum and corn-based ones come fromrenewable resources.

Even though PLA has been around for a while, it was not until recently that biodegradable packing peanuts became popular.

How to Know That Your Packaging Needs Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

There are many reasons why you should switch to using biodegradable peanuts. Some examples include:

  • Protect delicate items from damage during shipment
  • Prevent contamination of other goods
  • Keep costs down
  • Help preserve the environment
  • Avoid harming wildlife
  • Ensure safety for people who handle the package after delivery

Why Use Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

There are many reasons why you might choose to use biodegradable materials over traditional ones.

The Environment

The conventional packing peanuts take several years to degrade in landfills. This means that it could potentially stay there forever! If your products need to travel long distances or through international borders, this could pose an environmental hazard.

Not only does this contaminate the environment, but it adds to greenhouse gases.

Packing peanuts made from corn starch and other biodegradable materials can be placed in landfills because they do break down much quicker than traditional plastics.

Another benefit that this confers is that you may no longer need to pay disposal fees for your packing peanuts! Since these biodegradable packaging products are degradable, they can have a second use as compost material instead of being thrown.

Environmentally-friendly businesses should definitely consider using biodegradable packing peanuts when sending products out to customers, as they break down much faster than regular packing peanuts.

This results in a decrease in any potential environmental impact.

Animals

Traditional packing peanuts have caused many problems for wildlife. For instance, they can get stuck inside birds’ nests and even suffocate their young. In addition, they can choke sea turtles and fish.

Although some manufacturers make their plastic peanuts thinner in order to decrease the risk for animal harm, it’s still best to use eco-friendly packaging material like starch-based and PLA products instead.

Plants

When packing peanuts get wet, they become sticky and hard to remove. It makes it difficult for plant life to grow around them. In addition, when they dry out, they crack open and release harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde.

By choosing biodegradable packing peanuts, you can help protect our planet’s natural resources.

Safety

Some people worry about whether biodegradable packing peanuts are safer than traditional packing peanuts. While both packing peanuts are safe, biodegradable peanuts are better because they don’t leave behind static electricity like traditional packing peanuts.

One of the most common concerns with polystyrene packing peanuts is their static shock danger. When the polystyrene balls move against each other, they generate a substantial static charge, which can wreak havoc on sensitive electronics if fill material leaks into them.

Many large carriers, such as UPS,advise against using polystyrene peanuts to ship electronics for this reason. This is why you should consider anti-static options, such as biodegradable packing peanuts.

This also reduces the risk of injury to workers handling packages containing these materials.

Pros and Cons of Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

There are pros and cons associated with using biodegradable packing peanuts instead of traditional ones.

Pros

  • Biodegradable packing peanuts have a lower environmental impact than their Styrofoam counterparts as they quickly disintegrate once they reach the landfill
  • While foam peanuts can float in the water for decades, biodegradable peanuts begin to decompose within minutes of contact with moisture
  • They can dissolve in a wide range of liquids and produce no waste
  • Materials used to make biodegradable packing peanuts are fully non-toxic, meaning no workers are exposed to potentially dangerous gases or materials
  • Biodegradable packing peanuts don’t contain static electricity and are thus safer for electric products
  • Biodegradable peanuts materials don’t need much energy to create and the facilities that produce them emit fewer greenhouse gases
  • Safer for warehouse workers

Cons

  • In humid or rainy conditions, or if a liquid container spills inside the package, starch packing peanuts may begin to break down or become tacky because they dissolve when they come into contact with water
  • Eco-friendly packing peanuts have a higher weight than traditional packing peanuts, which could increase shipping expenses

Biodegradable Packaging Alternatives

There are many alternatives available on the market today that use natural materials instead of petroleum-based products. Here are examples of such alternative options!

Bamboo Fibre

Bamboo is a natural material that comes in several forms. One of the most popular is bamboo fiber, which can be used to create reusable or disposable items for packing, shipping, and storage.

Straw

In addition to being a common packing material, straw is easily accessible and easily degradable. Straw from wheat or rice is often mixed with natural binders, such as water or other plant fibers, for added durability.

Coconut Fibre

Also known as coir fiber, coconut fibre comes from coconut husks that have been ground into smaller pieces before being processed so they take on a fibrous nature similar to cotton or wool yarns.

Pads of coir can be used for packaging, shipping, and storage. Coir is naturally resistant to mold and insects which makes it particularly effective at repelling rodents!

Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds are another type of biodegradable packing material. They break down quickly in landfills, compost easily, and are organic. Coffee grounds make excellent insulation for shipping boxes, filling void spaces, and preventing breakage of fragile items.

Soy Wax

Another natural form of packing material is soy wax, which comes in both pellets and flakes. It does not burn easily, has a higher melting point than paraffin candles, and will not give off toxic fumes or smoke.

This type of wax is often used in candles marketed as being environmentally friendly.

Hemp Seed

Hemp seed is an eco-friendly alternative to packing peanuts. Hemp packing peanuts are more environmentally friendly than traditional ones because they are free of toxins!

Rice Hulls

Rice hulls are another green alternative to polystyrene products that can be used as packing peanuts. They absorb moisture and prevent damage to fragile objects. They cost about the same as their Styrofoam counterparts, but they biodegrade at least 30% faster!

Wood Pulp

Wood pulp is another green alternative to packing peanuts. The material can be made into sheets that are strong enough to be used in packaging applications. Another benefit of wood pulp is that it will retain its shape over time, even when placed in water!

Cotton Linen

Not only are cotton-linen packing peanuts green, but they can also be reused. They are both recyclable and biodegradable. These materials are easy to store because no special care is needed when not in use.

Their texture prevents them from scattering while being used or while moving around inside a box throughout the shipping process, making them an ideal choice for packaging.

Conclusion

Packing peanuts are not created equal. By choosing biodegradable packing peanuts, you can help the environment in several ways. While traditional polystyrene packing peanuts are non-toxic, they will remain in landfills for decades or longer. Biodegradable packing peanuts break down within weeks after disposal and do not release greenhouse gases into the air when burned.

Now that you know what biodegradable packing peanuts are made of, you can choose biodegradable packing peanuts and alternatives when possible in order to take care of the planet today!

While Styrofoam packing peanuts are currently the most affordable option, there are plenty of alternatives on the market that offer price ranges to suit all different purposes and budgets!

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