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How to Recycle Styrofoam Packing Peanuts

Updated February 21, 2017

Styrofoam packing peanuts provide excellent protection against breakage when packaging such items as electronics and glassware. Unfortunately, although they often have a triangular recycling symbol with the plastic code "6," they are not biodegradable, making them difficult to recycle. Even worse, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, at certain exposure levels, they also contain toxic chemicals that can cause problems such as depression, fatigue, nausea and loss of concentration. Instead of throwing away your packing peanuts and further polluting our landfills, consider ways to reuse or recycle them.

Drop off your packing peanuts at a local shipping and packaging company, such as Mailboxes, Etc. or The UPS Store. Most shipping companies will gladly accept them for reuse to cut down on costs.

Call the Plastic Loose Fill Council's "Peanut Hotline" at 800-828-2214 or visit it website to find a local company that will accept your packing peanuts.

Store them in a plastic bag or cardboard box and save them for the next time you need to ship a package.

Send your packing peanuts to the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers' Mail-Back Recycling Program. The program accepts only peanuts marked with a triangular recycling symbol and the number "6." You must remove any labels, glued-on cardboard or tape, and pay any shipping costs.

Search Earth911.com for recycling centres in your area. Enter "polystyrene" instead of packing peanuts for the best search results.

Donate your packing peanuts to a school or craft shop, where they will be used as craft project materials.

Sell them, if you have bulk quantities. Search the Recycled Plastic Markets Database for potential buyers.

Warning

Do not burn styrofoam. Toxic chemicals may be released.

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About the Author

Angela James graduated in 2000 with a degree in Political Science and Economics. Afterwards James worked as an Executive Assistant at a local bank where she was a writer and co-editor of the company employee newsletter. In 2003, she left the bank after the birth of her first child and became a freelance writer in 2008.