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Home Articles Eco Living - by Li Living an Earth-Friendly Lifestyle Eco Living: Reusing Packing Materials
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Li Wong's Eco Living Articles
Written by Li Wong of Earth Alkemie   

I was recently cleaning and realized I had too much packing supplies.  Usually I reuse it, but this time I had way more than I could use.  I did not want to throw it out, so I did a bit of research to find out what else I could do with it.

Packing peanuts are usually made with expanded polystyrene plastic (Styrofoam). Polystyrene is not biodegradable (so it just sit in landfills).  But it can be reused or recycled (it is plastic #6). 

In 2010, Americans created 250 million tons of trash1.   Only 34.1% of our trash was recycled and composted1.  Recycling and reusing every little bit helps, so here are a few great ways to reuse or to get rid of excess packing materials, including packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and bubble cushions.


Save and reuse:

Usually I reuse clean packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and cushions.  I save and use them to pack orders, gifts, or whatever else I need to ship.  This simple method is environmental friendly and very economical, since I don’t need to buy any packing supplies!

Give them to local businesses:

A lot of shipping and packing places will accept your used clean packing materials, and they will either reuse or recycle them.  Many UPS stores accept packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and bubble cushions (I dropped mine off at my local UPS, and they gladly accepted several large bags from me!).  I have also heard that many Mail Boxes Etc. locations will accept clean packing materials.  However, although these two stores usually accept them, not every location will take your used packing supplies, so be sure to call your local store and ask them before dropping your packing materials off!

If you don’t have one of the above stores in your area, or don’t know which local businesses accept packing materials, check out my links below.  Or contact your favorite local business (that has online sales or that is a shipping or packing company) to see if they would be willing to accept it.


Use biodegradable or more eco-friendly packing materials:

Some packing peanuts are made from natural materials such as cornstarch or cellulose, which are biodegradable.  If you have to buy new packing materials, consider buying and using the biodegradable kind or eco-friendlier versions.

If you receive an order or gift in the mail, you can easily tell if the packing peanuts are the biodegradable kind by placing one in water: if it dissolves in water than it is biodegradable.  Place the rest in your compost.

Another good alternative is to use newspaper or other types of paper to package items.  Most areas recycle newspaper and mixed paper.  Check with your local recycling programs.  Many government buildings, libraries, and some stores also accept recyclables.


Use packing materials for other uses: 

Many people use packing peanuts for other uses, such as making pet pillows (use them as the stuffing for pillows), for art work, or using them for potted plant drainage.  Let your creative juices flow!



1) The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Municipal Solid Waste 2010 Facts and Figures Fact Sheet: http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw_2010_rev_factsheet.pdf

More data from the EPA can be found on their “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures” main website: http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/msw99.htm



Great article from the Daily Green’s website on creative ways to reuse packing peanuts, including pet pillows and potted plant drainage. http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/save-money/recycle-packing-peanuts-460909


Check out the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s website to find local places that will accept packing peanuts. http://www.loosefillpackaging.com/


Earth 911’s website is a great resource in finding local places that will accept packing materials, and many other types of products too (paper, computers, batteries, etc). http://earth911.com/


Post an ad on freecycle to see if anyone locally is interested in your packing materials.  This is a good resource to get rid of your items or to find something you need!  http://www.freecycle.org/




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