The secret afterlife of peanuts

Packing peanuts

We picked up a load of used packing peanuts and other packing materials from a local college department yesterday and I began thinking that I’ve never really told our customers and visitors the things we do, and the concerns we have, for the environment.

Dave’s Cool Toys strives to use recycled materials whenever possible. We also recycle or reuse everything we can. This not only helps protect our environment, but it lowers our costs, which allows us to keep shipping fees as low as possible (we do not make money from shipping charges).

Much of the packing material we use in our shipments is recycled. We pick up packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and packing paper from local businesses and sometimes from individuals when it’s available. We re-use all packing material we receive from our suppliers. We do purchase packing peanuts new, but we are using less of them all the time as we find other resources. We have tried biodegradable packing peanuts, but were not happy with them. They cost somewhat more than standard peanuts, they didn’t fill and cushion the shipments nearly as well as we would like, and in damp weather they shrink and stick together. We use them when possible for fill when the items are fairly safe from breakage. We have instead focused on obtaining used peanuts and it’s been quite successful.

We also use as few peanuts and wrap as possible by cutting down cartons to size when packing your shipments and simply by arranging items to reduce the need as much as possible.

We receive many of our shipping cartons from a local printer that receives envelopes in them. Once they’ve used the envelopes, they save the cartons for us and we pick them up on a regular basis, flatten them, and store them for future shipping. We also reuse as many cartons as possible from shipments from our suppliers.

Some cartons cannot be re-used. Either they are too damaged, or have so many markings on them that it would not be practical to clean them up. In this case, we recycle them.

Packing Peanut Lamp
Packing Peanut Lamp. Yikes!

We recycle as much as possible. All waste corrugated cardboard is regularly taken to our local recycling center, as well as office paper, catalogs, plastic bags, flatboard, plastic, and foam. Other items we recycle are printer cartridges, glass, metal, electronics, and more.

Here in Bethlehem, PA we have an excellent recycling program. Much recycling is picked up at the curb, but we also have a great drop-off center. They take cardboard, paper, magazines, plastic, glass, cans, newspaper, phone books, textiles, aluminum, scrap metal, foam, and appliances. We also have a large compost center where yard waste can be dropped off and finished compost is available free of charge. We recycle all these items in our household as well.

Our recycling center also has a free shredding service and I want to assure our customers that we are very careful when recycling to destroy all personal information that may be present. We either cross-cut shred papers here in our office, or witness it being shredded at the recycling center.

One other area in which we reduce waste is packaging. Some of our suppliers allow us to order their items (mostly wooden toys) either with packaging, or without. Since we are an online store, we don’t need to worry about how our items will look sitting on a shelf in the store, so whenever possible, we order without boxes and packaging.

Speaking of wooden toys, many of the ones we carry are made from either scrap wood from other manufacturing processes, or, in the case of Tree Blocks, wood that is the discards from managed paper forests that might otherwise go to waste.

We encourage our customers to recycle their packing materials when they receive their orders. There are lots of good resources for this, but one of the best we’ve found is Freecycle. Freecycle is an online group who’s users post items they no longer need for others to re-use. Another resource is your local mailbox or eBay store to see if they would like them. Many would gladly take them for their shipments. You can also call the Peanut Hotline (I kid you not) at 800-828-2214, a toll-free, automated 24-hour service that provides the location of the nearest site that accepts loose fill packaging for reuse.

Packing Peanut Sculpture
Metal Sculpture from packing peanuts

If you are looking to dispose of your biodegradable packing peanuts, you may not want to flush them. Apparently they can cause clogged sewer lines when large quantities are flushed. Instead, spread them in your lawn or garden and hose them down lightly until they disappear. They are made from food starch and are perfectly safe for the environment. Obviously, this won’t work with Styrofoam peanuts.

Or… you could try making a lamp out of them. I found this interesting post online of a lovely lamp made from old packing peanuts (see photo above). Not sure how safe it is.

Maybe you’re artistic. Then try out this project… zinc casting sculpture using packing peanuts.

On the other hand, if you need some packing peanuts and want to make your own, try this interesting project. Yes, it is instructions on how to make your own cornstarch packing peanuts. OK, it’s probably not practical or cost-effective, but it might make an interesting project with the kids on a rainy day when you’re bored. Really bored.


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Dave’s Cool Toys Blog
We post news about new toys on our site, new toys in the market, general toy information, or stuff we just thought was cool (usually toys).

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Be sure to check out our toys at Dave's Cool Toys. We work hard to find toys you won't find at the big box stores. Now go out and play!

Dave Ference

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