Styrofoam Peanuts


I like the convenience of shopping online. Not only are there lots of goodies available, but it’s easy to jump from store to store with a couple keystrokes.


 


However, it’s very hard to tell if the ordered product is shipped in packaging filled with billions of lighter than air Styrofoam peanuts. Open the package and your nice clean living room is deluged with bits of Styrofoam that stick to everything. Little peanut bits seep into the product itself, requiring a several minute cleanup job.


 


Often, the package volume is much larger than the product volume, by several times, which invites even more mountains of peanuts. Shipping departments have a device with a hose that just mixes a few chemicals and blows them with air to spray these peanuts into the box. UPS and FedEx charge by weight, not volume. It seems to me that cargo capacity is limited by both weight and volume. Imagine the weight of a large building the size of a ping pong ball. Or the volume of an ocean liner weighing an ounce.


 


Not only is it hard to deal with all these bits (the peanuts inevitably have little Styrofoam crumbs that adhere to everything via static electricity), they are environmentally unfriendly.


 


Here in Redmond, and probably in much of the country, recycling is the norm. Our planet has limited resources and discarding them into a garbage dump is not the best thing to do for my children’s future.


 


I really like the air-filled plastic bags for packaging protection. It’s easy to reduce their bulk, they are effective, and they don’t adhere to products.


 


Do you agree with me about these peanuts?


 


Maybe we can unify and organize against shippers that use them. Perhaps a peanut packager blacklist?


 

Comments (21)

  1. Richard Dudley says:

    The air filled plastic bags don’t always do as god a job of protecting the shipped items, since smaller items can slip between the bags. Also, if a carton is pressed from the top or the sides, the weight is distributed better by the peanuts than with the air filled bags. This matters for some fragile items.

    Having said that, I always prefer to use the air filled bags when I can, and use peanuts only when necessary. I don’t like them either, but in some cases they’re the best we have.

    There are the cellulose peanuts that dissolve in water, but they don’t cushion as well, and if the package gets wet, there goes some of your cushioning.

    Besides recycling, we try and reuse the packing material. Our products arrive with peanut and bag padding, and we try and reuse the boxes and packing as much as we can. Of the hundreds and hundreds of packages we’ve shipped in the last two years, we have never purchased packing material (boxes are necessarily a different story). Not only does that help us keep our prices down, but we feel it helps the environment. The end recipient can usually recycle the peanuts, or many UPS Stores (and similar pack and ship places) gladly take donations of peanuts. In some cases, the empty box is sent back to us.

    Rather than boycott alltogether, support companies that reuse or recycle the peanuts.

  2. Richard Dudley says:

    The air filled plastic bags don’t always do as god a job of protecting the shipped items, since smaller items can slip between the bags. Also, if a carton is pressed from the top or the sides, the weight is distributed better by the peanuts than with the air filled bags. This matters for some fragile items.

    Having said that, I always prefer to use the air filled bags when I can, and use peanuts only when necessary. I don’t like them either, but in some cases they’re the best we have.

    There are the cellulose peanuts that dissolve in water, but they don’t cushion as well, and if the package gets wet, there goes some of your cushioning.

    Besides recycling, we try and reuse the packing material. Our products arrive with peanut and bag padding, and we try and reuse the boxes and packing as much as we can. Of the hundreds and hundreds of packages we’ve shipped in the last two years, we have never purchased packing material (boxes are necessarily a different story). Not only does that help us keep our prices down, but we feel it helps the environment. The end recipient can usually recycle the peanuts, or many UPS Stores (and similar pack and ship places) gladly take donations of peanuts. In some cases, the empty box is sent back to us.

    Rather than boycott alltogether, support companies that reuse or recycle the peanuts.

  3. Derek says:

    What we need is a styrofoam pickup and recycling service. I would be happy to donate, free of charge, any extra styrofoam peanuts I might have.

    An alternative to those air-filled plastic bags are biodegradable peanuts made from starch. They have the same advantages as their styrofoam cousins while not being quite as messy, either in your house or in a landfill. Also, they won’t do quite as much damage if Fido or the baby eats one.

  4. Bob Archer says:

    Sure. Soon you won’t be able to throw anything away…. we will need to recycle everything, and recycling cost money.

    I never had a problem with the biodegradable peanuts… they do the same thing. If there is a worry with water, line the box with poly styrene. Ut oh, then what would we do with the poly styreene? I know, we could have biodegradeable polystyrene, then, so it doesn’t have a problem in water we could wrap it with…. er nevermind.

  5. We had to train my family not to send peanuts, easter grass, or any similar packing materials. Once the girls got their hands on them, the results were _not_ pleasant. 🙂

  6. Don Newman says:

    If they ship by weight, would it make even more sense to fill the plastic bags with helium?

  7. Randy Brown says:

    Some reality to the situation… I will offer my brother’s perspective (Mr. WingTime – http://www.wingtime.com) since I’ve gotten into this debate with him a number of times. Terry uses the tiny obnoxious peanuts in his business of manufacturing and shipping Buffalo wing sauces. While he is very environmentally aware, the issue is more one of cost.

    Sadly, the cost for the Styrofoam peanuts is significantly lower than anything else on the market thus making it attractive. In his business (food), profits margins are extremely tight unlike that of software <g>. And nobody in the food business wants to pay any more for shipping/handling that they need to. Terry ships primarily via UPS. Guess who is responsible for damage during shipping? More often than not, my brother incurs the cost. While he has tried alternatives, he has found that peanuts are the safest way to ensure that his packages (containing fragile glass) can withstand the habits of UPS shippers who randomly toss packages around despite their fragility. My brother would gladly choose an alternative shipping material if folks on the other end would pay the extra costs, but that ain’t gonna happen — not in his business.

    So, if you want to organize and boycott shippers who use them, you should also be willing to pay extra costs they would incur for alternative shipping materials. And expect a few extra broken bottles along the way….:).

  8. LoCkY says:

    i like peanuts, they taste nice

  9. unamed says:

    ben goodman loves ian wiseman

  10. Red Jazelle says:

    The following conversation talks about EXACTLY why STYROFOAM IS EVIL ~ recycling DOES NOT HELP. Please stand up against these evil overlords and look for better alternatives!!!

    Yesterday I was heading down I-5 Southbound. About at the 805-5 split there was a box in the median~ a really big cardboard packing box, filled with packing material. Unfortunately packing material, STYROFOAM, was spilling out of the box like a river. It was being picked up by the passing cars and could be seen streaming down the interstates~ both the 805, and the 5~ like a dusting of snow in Southern California for a steady 2 miles.

    Unfortunately Styrofoam isn’t nearly as innocent and appealing as a stream, river, or snow. In fact, Styrofoam is one of the most deadly types of trash in any environmental situation. Styrofoam does not biodegrade, ever. It crumbles into fragments that have no expiration date. Any Styrofoam that is dumped into the environment persists on land INDEFINITELY as litter~ breaking up into little pieces that choke and clog animal digestive systems in waterways.

    This is Southern California, we live right by the beach. I witnessed all of this horrible litter headed straight to the ocean where sea turtles will eat it, thinking it is food. Little turtles, and other creatures, will die because they can’t digest Styrofoam, and because they can’t swim with this evil plastic lodged in their stomachs. So what was I suppose to do when I saw the torrent of Styrofoam gliding down the interstate? Run around in 5:00 traffic with a giant vacuum cleaner picking up the mess like a good environmentalist? No~ this is Styrofoam, even if I picked it all up and put it in the landfill, it would make its way into the waterways~ either now, or 10 million years from now. Again, I ask, “What can I do to prevent this needless death to our environment?”

    I’ll tell you what “I” can do! I can make the choice not to use Styrofoam~ AT ALL. Styrofoam is TERRIBLE for the environment, and YOUR BODY. Why use something for 10 minutes that will last until the END OF THE WORLD? Styrofoam does NOT recycle and does NOT breakdown in the environment, or landfills.

    Note how many places you go that give you Styrofoam~ take away coffee, and food are often placed in this destructive material. Take your own To-Go cup for coffee. Bring along a container if you’re going to dinner and think you’ll have leftovers. I DO! Its like voting, if we all vote not to use Styrofoam, we CAN make a difference. Just imagine how the environment would have benefited if the owner of that box on the interstate had choosen to pack with newspaper instead of DEADLY PLASTIC STYROFOAM!

    It is your choice!

    It is our world!

    Let’s ban together and rise against this killer!

    Together, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!!

    Scary facts about STYROFOAM:

    1. Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain. These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.

    2. These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable, heavily polluting and disappearing commodity.

    3. The product does not biodegrade. It crumbles into fragments that have no expiration date.

    4. The product takes up more space in landfills than does paper and eventually will re-enter the environment when landfills are breached by water or mechanical forces.

    5. Foam recycling is a public relations stunt, promoted by the chemical industries that manufacture it. This is done in highly centralized, distant facilities using complex chemical processes and expends far more energy than is ever saved by recycling the material.

    Fri, June 17, 2005 – 3:21 PM – permalink – 6 Comments

    edit this post delete this post

    6 Comments add a comment

    emma…

    67 Fri, June 17, 2005 – 3:33 PM

    I love you, Red!

    Save the Sea Turtles.

    I swam with one once and it was amazing.

    Styrofoam sucks. Boycott the Bitches!!

    Write/talk to local owners/managers of small businesses and urge them to swich to biodegradeble products. Make an effort not to go to places that don’t. Tell them this is why you’ve stopped coming in. You’re right, you sexy bitch! We can make a difference. Hell, if we can go out to an empty desert plain and erect a large city with a functioning community in the span of a week, we can certainly handle a little matter like styrofoam. I’m with you, Red! delete this comment

    Origami

    21 Sat, June 18, 2005 – 1:30 PM

    Love Nature too!

    Good goin’ Red,

    I love nature and life as much as you, and appreciate your concern.

    Lets vision the planet ‘healing’ as a collective, and give positive vibration to Nature, our mother, our life, our sustenance.

    I want to focus on the environment doing well. I believe that our minds are SO powerful, and despite the awfull crimes against our source, our love, Nature – we can envision a better future for our children who will love the planet and their bodies, and hopefully learn from out mistakes.

    Much LOVE delete this comment

    Meloney

    54 Sun, June 19, 2005 – 11:09 AM

    thanks for the reminder, Red! So, any ideas for what to do with Styrofoam when it unavoidably comes your way – as in shipping materials?

    And… didn’t you find some costumes by the side of the road once?? Or maybe that was someone else. 🙂 delete this comment

    Red

    95 Mon, June 20, 2005 – 11:32 AM

    Choices

    “if we can go out to an empty desert plain and erect a large city with a functioning community in the span of a week, we can certainly handle a little matter like styrofoam.”

    Thank you sooo much Emma! You have such a good point~ if we can choose to create Burning Man, we can choose to “de-create” Styrofoam by keeping it out of our existence.

    Like Origami said, let’s keep beautiful visions of how we expect our environment to flourish~ and let’s support our visions by acting accordingly, everyday. Polystyrene is not an alternative… not at all.

    This can be difficult~ like Meloney suggested; Styrofoam may be shipped to you as packaging material inadvertently becoming your responsibility. I would suggest that before we order anything major, like appliances or computers, that we ask the manufacturer what sort of packaging material we can expect our purchase delivered in. If they say Styrofoam, take that into consideration when you are evaluating which product to buy. If you can find an alternative product with similar features, AND they pack in cardboard~ go for them. And make the other company aware of why you didn’t choose their product.

    Another step is to write a letter to companies that still package with Styrofoam. Let them know how you feel about the deadly product they are using to package their goods with. This link is an example letter that can be mailed, OR E-MAILED to offending companies that use polystyrene. Just fill in the blanks and send it off to the evil overlords.

    http://www.ecocycle.org/specialev…/styroeprinstructions.cfm

    *note* I have heard that packaging “peanuts” are now being manufactured out of rice, but I couldn’t find a supplier on-line. If anyone has info, please send it on.

    And Yes, Mel~ it was me who picked up the fuzzy blanket on the side of the road. I was driving on the interstate (again!) when saw a big fuzzy pink thing… and then a PINK BOA blowing in the ice plant! I’m a burner, and it happened to be Earth Day, so I was practically REQUIRED to stop and pick up the trash. Wasn’t I? And when I did, I ended up with an AWESOME white fuzzy blanket that has pink hearts all over it!!!! And I got a shade cloth for my tent at the burn, and purple fuzzy material, plus the boa! (which I won’t take to the burn, no feathers on the playa, I know). Talk about a Ground Score on Earth Day! WOW! I’m always picking up trash at the beach and such… so it was nice to be able to pick up the trash and score some fun stuff. Next time you see me with my pink heart blanket, imagine me running around on the side of I-5 gathering it all up. It was soooo silly. My heart was racing from running around in traffic like that, and from finding such good stuff!!!

    Thank you so much lovely ladies, for your support and commitment to not use polystyrene, or Styrofoam. We are all given the choice; it is how we value the effects of our choices that make the difference. If you value the environment, there are choices we can all make everyday to create a beautiful future.

    The following links supply information about the environmental and human poisons created when manufacturing and using this deadly product. Information about recycling polystyrene and alternative choices can also be found.

    http://www.ejnet.org/plastics/polystyrene/

    http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowas…tgreen/projects/library/f03biodegradeablesatstjeromes.pdf

    bss.sfsu.edu/raquelrp/pr…ts/Styrofoam.ppt delete this comment

    Amaya

    20 Mon, June 20, 2005 – 4:09 PM

    Yes! There are creative alternatives!!

    Hi Red,

    Awesome rant, girl. You know, if there’s anything that being involved in Burning Man has taught me, it is the freaking amazing creativity that ABOUNDS in people. I mean, sometimes I get down and think that the world is all full of morons who don’t care, but it’s not true at all! We just don’t normally have outlets! Being creative is HUMAN; it is an integral part of who we are. The point being that we not only can come up with astounding playa art structures, costumes, and trippy vehicles, but we can come up with creative, feasible solutions for living WITH rather than at odds with our environment. (This is one of the reasons that I am in the AEZ (alternative energy zone) Camp at Burning Man).

    Hey, and the chemistry nerd in me has to say: they DO have environmentally friendly packing peanuts, made out of cornstarch! They’re a trip; they melt in water. I found a nifty article about ’em I thought you’d like to read:

    http://www.engineerguy.com/comm/3294.htm

    Thanks for caring…and declaring! Keep up the good work!

    Love,

    Amaya 🙂 delete this comment

    Red

    95 Mon, June 20, 2005 – 4:33 PM

    *Environmental Goosebumps*

    Amaya! The link you sent gave me CHILLS! How is that?! Thank you SOOOO much for sharing.

    Remember the letter I mentioned being able to quickly fill out and e-mail to the evil suppliers of Styrofoam? http://www.ecocycle.org/specialev…/styroeprinstructions.cfm I suggest that at the end of this letter we all include the link Amaya gave us in her note. I have just e-mailed Bill Hammack to see if he can give us the names of corporations that supply these cornstarch peanuts. Hopefully he will reply soon and we can put the names in that letter, also. I’ll post his comments within this blog when I get them… I promise!

    Your comments were greatly appreciated, luv! I can’t wait to see you on the playa and learn more about what AEZ is up too!

    XOXO

    Jaz

    Here is the link to a manufacturer of starch peanuts. http://www.starchtech.com/. This should definitely be added to the end of the letter, if you choose to mail it to any offending corporations that package with polystyrene. http://www.ecocycle.org/specialevents/styroeprinstructions.cfm

    I am keen to send the letter out, for sure! Here are the corporations I was thinking of sending the letter too… please post other corporations you know of who are shipping with Styrofoam, or let me know if I am mistaken about the ones that I listed.

    Suppliers of EVIL polystyrene that should be shown the light:

    Hewlett Packard

    Dell

    Sony

    Panasonic

    RCA

    Juice Stop

  11. Barb says:

    Farting is awesome

  12. S. Townsend says:

    I came up on this debate while searching for Packing Peanuts that BioDegrade.

    After reading all the postings,except for the foam on the inerstate, I can relate to all that was expressed.

    My company is a start up that sells mostly Ceramics and we find that packing peanuts (Foam)protects our shippment better than air filled plastic bags,News Paper and Wood Shavings.

    All these other packing alternatives works but not when you are shipping a piece of Ceramic made in Deruta ,Italy worth $800.00 USD. Shippers have to consider the value of each shipment,How much it is to ship (the weight) and most important of all will it get to their client intact.

    Despite the obvious dangers of Styrofoam,until shippers can get on the internet and find an alternative that is as good as or better. In the interest of business and customer service,styrofoam will always be in use.

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  15. Michelle says:

    We have converted to using biodegradable cornstarch peanuts for packing. They are only a little bit more than what I was paying for styrofoam. And they are not as messy because they do not conduct static and fly everywhere. I really like using them. And the best part is they disolve in water. So my customers can easily dispose of them. I ran across your conversations when I was looking up verbage about the peanuts to enclose a note to my customers. I enjoyed reading the comments here. Thanks Michelle

  16. jesse says:

    this site had some great information on it, to the point where i wanted to look for sources and quote it in a paper. there were several urls that i grabbed, but only a couple of them work, like the "polystyrene homepage" and the cornstarch peanuts page…but thanks for the dedication and information provided

  17. Rick says:

    Another downside of the cornstarch peanuts is weight.  They weigh twice as much as regular peanuts.  This trips anywhere from 1 out fo 5-15 packages up to the next pound of weight, costing more.  Plus, extra weight in every packages uses more fuel during shipping.

    Air packages for large pillows for bulk fill are competitive, even a little cheaper than peanuts.  But quilted air pillows (suitable for smaller items) cost 50-80% more per cubic foot than peanuts.  That’s a big deal when you spend $40k a year on them.

    Frankly, it’s hard to absorb those costs and it’s very hard to pass along the costs to the customers of the alternatives to peanuts.

  18. Cindy says:

    As a small business owner who ships lots of packages, I’ve developed relationships with a couple of businesses in order to use the peanuts that they receive.  I also use freecycle, a free service in many metro areas, to advertise to people that I accept peanuts if they want to "recycle" them with me.

  19. W.C. Burns says:

    For loose glassware, styrofoam peanuts are the only way to go.. air pillows simply do not prevent shifting of the items in the package. Also for insurance purposes, there must be 3 inches of packaging all around, otherwise the USPS will not cover damages, and that is much easier to accomplish with those annoying little peanuts.

  20. I like the convenience of shopping online. Not only are there lots of goodies available, but it&amp;#8217;s easy to jump from store to store with a couple keystrokes. However, it&amp;#8217;s very hard to tell if the ordered product is shipped in packaging