It's easy to think of uses for peanuts. There's peanut butter, of course. Then peanut brittle, dry roasted, boiled, and salted peanuts. Peanut butter pie, peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cups and every possible combination of peanuts and chocolate. Don't forget peanut oil, peanut flour and the countless cosmetics, detergents and other non-food products that include some kind of peanut product. But what about the shells? Sure, they make for interesting steakhouse floor decorations, but what else are they good for?
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Save those shells--they can be recycled! Peanut shells burn very slowly, making them a possible substitute for charcoal. Simply save the shells in a dry place until you have a substantial bag full, then use with a grill as you would charcoal. Not sure you eat enough peanuts in a year to fill a bag? Peanut shells also make excellent compost material; in fact, they add bulk, keeping your fruit and vegetable matter from becoming too slimy. Peanut shells also help absorb moisture and odours, another composting plus.
Because of their odour and moisture absorbing properties, peanut shells are an important ingredient in some cat and pet litters. You can make your own cat litter at home, using leftover peanut shells. Just wash them in a gentle soap solution and lay them out to dry completely. Mix with a bit of baking soda for extra odour control, and there's your environmentally friendly cat litter! Peanut shells are also ground and used as filler in industrially produced animal feed, to which they add some fibre.
Save peanut shells to use for rainy day craft projects. With bits of fabric and fine-tipped markers, you can transform a pile of shells into a peanut family. Use them in a collage, or glue to a fruit juice can and paint for a textured pencil holder. Make peanut shell prints, or as "siding" for a Popsicle-stick house. They make lovely boats, troughs and cooking pots for small figurines. Hand a pile to your kids and see what they come up with.
Peanut shells are used frequently in industry, thanks to the research of early 20th-century scientist, George Washington Carver. Today, peanut shells are used in linoleum (a mixture of organic materials such as linseed oil, rosin, wood flour, etc., on a burlap backing). They can also be found in plastic "lumber" made from recycled materials. The cellulose in peanut shells make them ideal for use in drywall and paper products, while their texture when crushed make them a useful ingredient in abrasives. Their absorption properties lend themselves to use in manufacturing activated charcoal. Currently, scientists are researching the possibility of using peanut shells to produce hydrogen to use in fuel cells, such as those which power the space shuttle. George Washington Carver would be proud.
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