Although packing peanuts help to protect shipped items from bumps that could otherwise damage the items during shipping, packing peanuts take up landfill space and, depending on the material used to make the peanuts, can negatively affect the environment.

Typically, packing peanuts are made of nondegradable polystyrene, also known as plastic foam, or a biodegradable vegetable starch base. The options available for disposing of your packing peanuts vary depending on the type of material used.

Polystyrene Packing Peanuts

Store your polystyrene packing peanuts in plastic bags and reuse in shipments that you send as needed.

Contact local moving or shipping stores and ask if the stores take used packing peanuts. If you find a location that accepts used packing peanuts, ask whether the store charges a fee to accept the peanuts. If you can’t find a store that accepts used packing peanuts, call the Plastics Loose Fill Council (PLFC) Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214 to find a local drop-off location; or go to the PLFC website to find the nearest location.

Transfer your polystyrene packing peanuts into plastic bags. Drop the bags off at the nearest location.

Starch-Based Packing Peanuts

Add your starch-based packing peanuts to a compost heap or cut up/shred the peanuts with scissors and mix with potted plant soil. The peanuts will break down and dissolve into the compost or soil over time.

Fill a large bucket or trashcan with the packing peanuts. Add hot water to dissolve the peanuts. After the packing peanuts have dissolved, pour the starch residue and water down a drain.

Follow the steps for disposing of used polystyrene packing peanuts.


To determine the packing peanuts material, simply place a peanut in hot water to see if it dissolves. If your shipping container has different colored packing peanuts, test each color as mixed material shipments can occur.

If you can’t find a local moving or shipping store that will accept the packing peanuts, or the store charges a fee, contact local schools and churches. Some schools and churches use packing peanuts in children’s crafts.


Never throw polystyrene packing peanuts out with your household trash. Although some municipalities allow this type of disposal, polystyrene has a negative impact on the environment. Reuse or recycle the peanuts instead.