PACKING PEANUTS ….. POPCORN ….. LOOSE FILL
Peanuts are small, soft pellets of styrofoam or starch that are poured into a packing box to provide cushioning. Peanuts are extremely effective if they are used properly. The cost is low, too. Here in San Diego, some wholesalers — including us — also sell used peanuts. We find used peanuts work as well as new ones.
All of our peanuts are anti-static, which makes for easier and safer packing.
14 CU. FT. BAG: $26.95 (Recycled styrofoam)
14 CU. FT. BAG: $26.95 (Biodegradable)
We also sell small, foam peanuts repackaged quantities in the store.
There are three concerns when using peanuts:
A general rule of packing is to give fragile items at least 2 inches space (padding) between the item and the wall of the packing box. We have never, in 12 years of extensive packing ever seen an item damaged, in any way due to excessive padding. Use plenty of padding!
Be sure the item being packed does not settle through the peanuts and end up resting near the bottom of the box (thus losing the padding). To avoid this, place some support pieces on the bottom of the packing box before adding peanuts. The pieces act as spacers, guaranteeing, the correct clearance. After enough spacers are in position to support the item, cover the spacers with peanuts and continue packing with peanuts. Use spacers on all sides and the top when the load is heavy. You can get spacers from two sources. Cut up the foam blocks used to pack electronics and position them in the box to give the required spacing. Or, you can form spacers by simply rolling up bubble pack into tight little cylinders of the desired diameter.
Another way to avoid settling is to pour in the necessary amount of peanuts into the packing box and then press a snug fitting sheet of corrugated paper down into the box so the sheet rides on top of the peanuts. Place the item being packed on top of the sheet of corrugated so it cannot settle through the peanuts. (As an incidental benefit, the sheet of corrugated also supplies additional support to the walls of the packing box.)
The second concern is to be sure the peanuts are pressed in so firmly they will not settle in transit. If the peanuts become loose, the item will settle through the peanuts and ride on the bottom of the box.
Be sure to press down on the peanuts and work them down around the item being packed until you are sure no furthur settling is possible. (Loose peanuts will usually settle 15 to 20% on being properly compressed.) The heavier the item being packed, the firmer the peanuts need to be pressed down.
In the same vein, be sure to mound up the peanuts a little above the top of the carton (about ¼” ) to be sure the peanuts are kept under pressure during the shipment.
UPS now recommends items weighing more than 50 pounds not be packed using loose fill peanuts. We find we can pack considerably heavier items (70# ) if we use sturdy spacers. (See above)
Peanuts tend to work into the holes and crevices of the item being packed. A good way to avoid peanuts getting into the wrong places is to bag either the item being packed or the peanuts used for the packing. Use plastic bags, bubble pack, paper pads or any of the many products described on these pages. If you wrap the item, it’s important to apply the bag or wrap so loosely that the wrap can be pressed firmly against the contours of the item being packed. If you don’t do this, the pressure of the peanuts will tear the wrap.
A note to the technically inclined:
Polystyrene peanut packs should be loaded to no more than about 1/3 pound per square inch. This is to say, an item weighing 25 pounds will require an area of at least 75 square inches to support it. If higher weight loadings are needed, consider using styrofoam sheet.
There is a very effective type of peanut that looks like a bow tie made of foam. It is designed to cushion lighter loads. This type of peanut should not be loaded much over about 1/10 pound per square inch. We don’t have much experience with them.
Other types of foam peanuts:
Pink peanuts are peanuts that have been treated with an antistatic agent. Use only pink peanuts in direct contact with electronics. White ones may generate static electricity and damage the electronics.
(Many people use pink peanuts after having had a bad experience with static charges on the peanuts.) In San Diego we regularly encounter static electric effects not ordinary seen outside of physics lectures. Charged peanuts will simply not lie quietly in a box. They jump right out. It’s impossible to fill the box! The peanuts also cling to arms, hair and clothing. After an hour of this , the extra dollar or so for a bag for antistatic looks like a bargain.
Polystyrene peanuts are slowly being phased out because they are not biodegradable. Polystyrene peanuts can be recycled endlessly by taking them to any of the numerous
mail box or
shipping stores for reuse. These stores, including us, are glad to get them.
There now exist biodegradable peanuts made of starch. Biodegradable peanuts are denser (heavier) than polystyrene ones. Furthur, they soften slightly at high humidities and they can develop an acrid odor at high temperatures (110F+). But in spite of the negatives, we do see the biodegradable peanuts becoming increasingly widely used. We see no evidence of the starch based peanuts attracting rats or insects.
If you need to use packing peanuts for a move, consider the starch, biodegradable ones. If they get loose during unpacking (and they will) they will degrade when it rains and you won’t risk offending your new neighbors. (We don’t recommend biodegradable peanuts for storage, though).
If you regularly receive large quantities of loose fill (40 or more cubic feet per week) you should be able to arrange to have a local packing and shipping store come by and pick them up. If you happen to be located within a mile or so of us, please call us. Our local phone number is (619) 287-4090.