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Biodegradable Packing Peanuts: Eco-Friendly Facts and Things to Know

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are an important packaging material. These small foam pieces not only provide essential protection for delicate items, but they also serve as a robust void filler to prevent items inside of a box from shifting around -- all without adding unnecessary weight. When it comes to packing oddly shaped and fragile items like vases and collectibles for moving or shipping, packing peanuts are an absolute necessity.

But did you know that there are different types of packing peanuts? Standard Styrofoam peanuts are the most commonly used – however, there’s an alternative choice that not only ensures your items stay protected, but is also safe for you, your pets, and the environment.

Two glass decorations packed in a box with packing peanuts.

What Are Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are a fantastic eco-friendly packaging solution that provide all the benefits and functionality of Styrofoam packing peanuts, but with the bonus of being 100% non-toxic and environmentally friendly. These little wonders are specifically designed to safeguard and cushion items during shipping and moving. The best part? Thanks to their biodegradable nature, they naturally break down over time, making them a much smarter choice for our environment.

What Are Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Made Out Of?

Biodegradable packing peanuts – sometimes called dissolvable packing peanuts or eco-friendly packing peanuts – are made of plant-based materials. For maximum eco-friendliness, U-Haul packing peanuts are made from corn starch and potato starch. Not only does this simple and natural formula have minimal environmental impact, but it also makes packing peanuts 100% non-toxic for people and pets!

Our plant-based formula also means these packing peanuts will dissolve in water. Even without moisture, dissolvable packing peanuts decompose naturally over time. Unlike foam peanuts, biodegradable packing peanuts will never end up polluting the ocean or any other natural environment since they don’t consist of any non-biodegradable materials.

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Biodegradeable packing peanuts

Can You Eat Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

People often wonder if you can eat biodegradable packing peanuts. The answer is, yes, dissolvable packing peanuts are completely edible and non-toxic. If a pet or small child (or anyone who’s curious) gets their hands on one, there’s no need to worry. Biodegradable packing peanuts are 100% safe to ingest, by accident or otherwise.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Vs. Foam Packing Peanuts

You’re probably more familiar with traditional packing peanuts; the small, squishy Styrofoam pieces that are used to fill boxes. They’re made from polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam. Although this material can be useful, it’s known to be harmful to both humans and the environment.

In fact, select cities have even banned certain polystyrene items because of the negative impact it has on the environment. The manufacturing process, in particular, produces harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that pollute the air. After it’s manufactured, polystyrene takes hundreds to thousands of years to decompose, so it often ends up littering oceans, forests, and our own communities after it's thrown away.

Eco-Friendly Packing Peanuts by the Numbers

Biodegradable packing peanuts aren’t a new concept. As a leader in DIY moving, U-Haul has offered eco-friendly packing peanuts as an affordable alternative to traditional packing peanuts since 1993. Nearly two decades later, the versatile void fillers have had a measurable and positive impact:

  • Since 1993, customers who choose U-Haul Peanut Pak™ have kept 7.7 million cubic feet of Styrofoam out of landfills
  • Each year, customers who choose U-Haul Peanut Pak™ keep 600,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam out of landfills
  • For reference, 7.7 million cubic feet is larger than 140 railroad boxcars

A glass vase packed in a box with packing peanuts.

How to Pack Fragile Items With Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are best used as a void filler while shipping or moving items in cardboard boxes. Filling any gaps will immobilize items during transit to prevent the shifting that often leads to cracked, chipped, or scuffs. Packing peanuts are especially effective when used to pack oddly shaped items like lamps, holiday figurines, crystal vases, and other fragile ornaments that are difficult to wrap in a protective material like packing paper.

To get the most out of your packing peanuts:

1. Pair them with other packing supplies, like Enviro-Bubble® wrap, packing paper, and a sturdy moving/shipping box.

2. Start by filling the box about halfway with packing peanuts, then firmly insert your item(s) into that first layer of peanuts. Use the peanuts to fill empty spaces where possible (the peanuts will conform to your item).

3. Fill the remaining empty space with packing peanuts and firmly press down on the second and final layer. The goal is to immobilize your item in the box as much as possible by ensuring that the gaps around the item are filled.

Packing peanuts inside a moving box.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts: The Advantages

In addition to being safe for the environment, biodegradable packing peanuts have other useful advantages over traditional packing supplies that you should consider.

Anti-Static - Biodegradable packing peanuts are an anti-static, dust free, and scratch-resistant packing material so they’re safe to use with computers, laptops, monitors, and other valuable electronics.

Reusable - Biodegradable packing peanuts are reusable so you can take pride in contributing to a more sustainable future that is less reliant on single-use waste, like plastic and polystyrene, when you fill your boxes.

Lightweight - One bag of U-Haul Biodegradable Packing Peanuts weighs less than one pound and fills an entire U-Haul Small Moving Box. That’s a lot of void filler without much added weight to your box.

Compostable - Those with a green thumb can use any leftover biodegradable packing peanuts as compost and for added sustainability benefits. Note: U-Haul packing peanuts tend to decompose quicker in humid and warmer climates.

Versatile - Unlike moving blankets or bubble cushion, packing peanuts can be used to pack boxes of all shapes and sizes. Simply use more peanuts to fill medium- and large-sized boxes, and less to fill small boxes.

Where to Buy Biodegradable Packing Peanuts?

You can buy biodegradable packing peanuts at most places that you can find moving or shipping supplies. That includes the thousands of U-Haul centers across the U.S. and Canada. You can also order dissolvable packing peanuts online then have them shipped to your doorstep or pick them up from a U-Haul near you. Same-day delivery is available in most United States metro areas and suburbs for added convenience too. Order your biodegradable packing peanuts and other essential packing supplies today, and start working towards a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow!

Need more information on packing materials?

Check out our helpful guide on The Best Protective Packing Materials for Moving to learn more.