Packing peanuts, a.k.a. plastic loose fill, are lightweight foam filler used as a cushion for the item that you’re shipping. There are two different types of packing peanuts, polystyrene and starch based. Polystyrene is the original with the starch based peanuts coming out a while later. The main benefits of using packing peanuts is that they are very lightweight, and when compressed make a very good support cushion. Let’s talk about the types of packing peanuts a little more specifically.
There are three different kinds of polystyrene packing peanuts. +70% virgin, +70% recycled, and anti-static. The +70% virgin packing peanuts are made out of at least 70% raw material (non-recycled). These can be identified because they are usually white, though not always. +70% recycled is just that, made out of at least 70% recycled polystyrene from old peanuts, this is the greenest option for polystyrene products and can be identified easily because the color is usually green. And last but not least is the anti-static type. These are used mainly for electronic items so that the peanuts do not cling all over them, they are generally pink in color and made from virgin polystyrene.
The second type of packing peanut is starch based. They can be made from a lot of different things like corn starch or grain sorghum, but they are all plant based which makes them biodegradable and water soluble. These peanuts generally look like white Cheeto’s. They are also non-toxic and can be accidentally ingested, but they aren’t made to be food, so I wouldn’t recommend it. All of the nutrition has been taken out anyways to deter any living things getting into your peanuts.
Let’s talk about the main differences between these two main types. The first thing you need to know is weight because that will affect your shipping prices. Polystyrene packing peanuts will weigh less by at least half as much, their weight is about 0.17 to 0.2 lb per cubic foot according to wikipedia.org. While starch based packing peanuts weight in at 0.4 to 0.8 lb per cubic foot. It might also be good to note here that in general the starch based packing peanuts will cost more per cubic foot compared to polystyrene.
That last paragraph sounded a little negative towards plant based packaging peanuts, so let me tell you why they’re so great, and why you should consider buying them. It’s all about the green factor. If you’re trying to be an eco-friendly company it’s the only way to go. They’re compostable, they’re biodegradable, they don’t use any harsh chemicals, and if you have a “green” target market they’re going to take notice.
P.S. If you are trying to be greener and would like to recycle any packing peanuts you have visit the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s website to find a drop off location near you.