Packing Peanuts - Polystyrene v Plant-Based

Packing Peanuts - Polystyrene v Plant-Based

Posted by Angela - Naturally Safe Cosmetics on 16th Jan 2023

(1 ½ minute read)

One of the most popular choices when it comes to packing items for shipping or delivery is the humble packing peanut. Packing peanuts are small and perfectly shaped to interlock with each other as they fill up gaps and voids in mailing boxes and the like. Packing peanuts stop items from rattling around while being transported, thereby protecting them from damage. They are particularly useful for protecting delicate and glass items.

Polystyrene packing peanuts versus starch based peanuts (Image source: Naturally Safe Cosmetics)

Not all packing peanuts are made the same

While packing peanuts are excellent at filling gaps and protecting items from damage, it's important to note that not all packing peanuts are the same. There are generally 2 types of packing peanuts:

  • styrofoam; and
  • plant-based 

There are some major differences between these 2 forms of packing peanuts, as you'll see below.

What are packing peanuts made of?

Styrofoam - expanded polystyrene (EPS)

Plant-based - natural starch made from corn or wheat

Are packing peanuts biodegradable?

Styrofoam - no, they can take 100's or 1000's of years to decompose

Plant-based - yes, starch peanuts can biodegrade within hours or days. They dissolve in minutes in warm water, so they're easily disposable down the sink.

Are packing peanuts toxic?

Styrofoam - yes, they're made from petroleum, which is classified as a hazardous substance. EPS production also creates toxic waste and is harmful to the ozone layer. Polystyrene easily breaks apart into small pieces, making it a choking hazard for animals tempted to eat it. Being super light, small pieces can be blown or washed into oceans, creeks & other waterways, posing a risk to marine life. For humans, it can leach chemicals into food & drink, especially hot items.

Plant-based - No. Starch peanuts are safe for humans and pets if accidentally ingested.

Polystyrene products are banned in many jurisdictions

Polystyrene is so toxic, it has been banned in numerous places around the world. In Australia, most states have taken action to ban businesses from supplying a number of problematic plastic items, including expanded polystyrene food service items and peanuts. Unfortunately, because polystyrene peanuts do not biodegrade, there are still plenty of them around. Occasionally (and surprisingly!), we still receive them in deliveries from certain suppliers and distributors. Come on, guys!

The Naturally Safe Choice

At Naturally Safe Cosmetics, we use a combination of different materials to safely pack your orders, including cardboard and paper. We recycle and re-use a lot of the packing materials which we receive from our suppliers. And, when we do buy packing peanuts, we choose only natural, plant-based peanuts.