How to Tell if your Packing Peanuts are Biodegradable

LBN Weekly Eco Tip #10

The package you ordered over a week ago has finally arrived!

You cut through the tape and open the flaps, eager to make sure the fragile object you selected online arrived in one piece. Hundreds of light, foamy packing peanuts greet you. Sifting through them, you find your purchase and are relieved to see it’s undamaged. The peanuts packed around the object have kept it safe, but now there’s a box full of them to deal with.

You’ve heard about biodegradable packing peanuts, but aren’t quite sure what they are or how to tell them apart from regular styrofoam ones.

Are these styrofoam or biodegradable?

Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell the two apart!

First, what exactly are biodegradable packing peanuts?

Biodegradable packing peanuts are made from non-toxic, natural starches such as wheat, corn, or potato starch. They’re a better option compared to their polystyrene, or styrofoam, counterparts that end up in the landfill and don’t break down.

Businesses are responding to the call for natural, environmentally friendly packaging alternatives!

Companies such as your local U-Haul, Staples, or other moving solutions business likely has a biodegradable packing peanut option.

Upfront Cosmetics based in New Brunswick is one such brand that has been committed to minimizing plastic and packaging waste since day one.

Their mission is to craft high quality naturally sourced cosmetics with recognizeable ingredients while minimizing the needless waste associated with brand packaging.

Find all their products here!

Upfront Cosmetics uses plastic-free, compostable, environmentally friendly packaging materials, including biodegradable peanuts, to ship their products – including shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bars.

Watch their Facebook video on dissolving starch packing peanuts!

Cha’s Organics is another great brand that uses these compostable peanuts in all of their small parcel deliveries!

The Water Test

Here’s a simple test to determine whether your packing peanuts are biodegradable or styrofoam.

How to Test:

Submerge one test peanut in water.

Biodegradable peanuts will dissolve in a few moments when they come into contact with water.

Styrofoam peanuts will remain intact.

How to Dispose of Biodegradable Peanuts:

While technically edible, we suggest disposing of these peanuts in other ways!

To Dissolve:

Fill your sink with warm water to about 1/2 or 3/4 full.

Add peanuts.

Agitate water to start dissolving.

Let them fully dissolve before draining your sink.

To Compost:

Simply place in your standard green bin.

Some sources, including a 2019 article from, say they can be used as a compost or fertilizer in your garden. Try dissolving them in a watering can and using the liquid fertilizer on your plants!

What to do with Styrofoam?

Here are some options depending on your location:

  • Ask if the company you purchased the peanuts from (or the package they came in) will take back the styrofoam to reuse
  • Shipping and moving businesses such as UPS will take clean packing peanuts (styrofoam and/or biodegradable)
  • Start a neighbourhood TerraCycle styrofoam collection!
  • Find out if your regional recycling depot takes styrofoam

Have more tips and suggestions?
Send us a message!


High Country Conservation –

London Drugs Recycling Program and Locations –

TerraCycle –

U Haul, Packing Peanuts –

Upfront Cosmetics –


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