We do everything we can to do our part in the effort to protect the environment. We recycle. We take extra care to combine errands so we don't waste gasoline (especially at these prices). We even make purchases online to save energy and keep the paper catalogs at bay. And if you are like me, you just love getting packages in the mail. Except. . . when I open the package and find that my item has been protected from damage in shipping with the dreaded polystyrene packing peanuts! Not only do these pesky peanuts make a huge mess, they are utterly indestructible. When these things end up in landfills, they NEVER degrade. Future inhabitants of our planet will be able to study our culture using these suckers.
So what do we do?
1. The best alternative is to simply not use these peanuts. There are alternative packing peanuts available made from starch that almost instantly dissolve in water. Ask your online retailer to begin using this more environmentally friendly alternative to polystyrene.
2. When you receive a package packed in peanuts, test them by running one under water to see if it dissolves. If so, you can simply dump them in your sink a little at a time and run the dissolved peanuts down the drain. They are safe for the water supply since they are made from vegetable and other organic matter.
3. When the peanuts don't dissolve, there are a few things we can do. When you have a package to ship that requires a bit of protection, use the peanuts. Ask your recipient to do the same. At least they don't end up in a landfill immediately.
4. If you don't like the idea of keeping the peanuts around the house, there are several centers and stores that will take them to reuse. Many UPS Stores, Mailboxes Etc. , PostNet, and other small packing and shipping centers will accept your peanuts to reuse. Contact your local store for verification. If you have trouble finding a drop-off location, please visit http://www.loosefillpackaging.com for information on businesses and centers willing to accept used peanuts or call the Plastic Loose Fill Council's Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214.
Get your creative juices flowing
Now we know how to recycle those pesky peanuts, but before we get rid of them, let's ask ourselves what other uses we might find for the peanuts. Can we think of ways we can convert our trash into treasure? Here are a few ideas to get us started.
-The holidays are fast approaching, so any peanuts we have left over after using them to safeguard the gifts we're shipping can be used for decoration. Use a needle and strong thread to string the peanuts like popcorn to use as a garland for your tree.
-Place a few peanuts in the bottom of a planter before inserting your plant to conserve soil and to help drainage. Be sure not to use too many or to block the drainage hole completely.
-Use an old zippered pillowcase and fill it with peanuts. This makes an inexpensive pet bed or a “bean" bag chair.
-Dip the peanuts in paint and use for creative stamps. Many peanuts look like letters or you can cut them into whatever shape you'd like. If you are a scrapbooker, this is a great way to add a creative splash to a page.
-Crumble the peanuts into pieces and use them as faux snow in our winter decorations.
Even simple actions can help us protect our environment. The more we do, the more we help, the more our world benefits.
Dawn Bates is a busy wife, mother, environmentalist, and webmaster to the highly informative recycling website, A Recycling Revolution . For both basic and extensive information on recycling, composting, reusing, and reducing, visit A Recycling Revolution.