In this article, you will learn about the history and development of packing peanuts, their common uses and applications, as well as their environmental impact and sustainability. The article will delve into different types of packing peanuts, like Styrofoam, biodegradable, cornstarch, and recycled paper peanuts, discussing their composition, properties, advantages, disadvantages, and disposal methods. Additionally, you will learn how to choose the right type of packing peanuts based on factors like environmental impact, cost, protection requirements, and shelf life. Finally, the article will provide best practices for using packing peanuts, including packing techniques for product safety, ideas for reusing and repurposing, and responsible disposal and recycling methods.
Overview of Packing Peanuts
Packing peanuts, also known as foam peanuts or loose-fill, are small, lightweight, and often shaped like peanuts or noodles. These small pieces of expanded polystyrene (EPS), or other similar materials, are widely used in the packaging industry for cushioning and protection of delicate or fragile objects from damage during shipping and handling.
History and Development
The development of packing peanuts can be traced back to the late 1960s. At that time, Dow Chemical, an American multinational corporation, invented the Styrofoam material made from expanded polystyrene. Styrofoam is lightweight, flexible, and shock-absorbent, making it an ideal material for use in packaging.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the popularity of packing peanuts grew rapidly. The expanded polystyrene foam was easy to produce and economical, making it an attractive option for businesses looking for effective packaging solutions. Manufacturers soon began producing the foam in a variety of shapes and sizes, including the familiar “peanut” shape that remains popular today.
In response to environmental concerns, alternatives to traditional polystyrene packing peanuts have been developed over the years. One of the first such alternatives was biodegradable packing peanuts, made from cornstarch and released in the early 1990s. These eco-friendly alternatives have continued to evolve, with newer products made from materials like wheat, potato starch, and even recycled paper having an increasing presence in the market.
Common Uses and Applications
Packing peanuts are employed in various industries and applications where the protection of fragile or delicate items is essential. Some common uses include:
Shipping and transportation: The primary use of packing peanuts is in the shipping and handling industry. They provide cushioning and protection for items inside shipping boxes, helping to prevent damage from impacts and vibrations during transit.
Electronics and appliances: Many electronic devices and home appliances, such as computers, televisions, and audio equipment, are sensitive to shocks that can cause damage to internal components. Packing peanuts help to prevent such damage, ensuring these items arrive in good working order.
Glassware and ceramics: Fragile items such as drinking glasses, plates, and porcelain figurines are highly susceptible to cracks and breakage. The use of packing peanuts provides an additional layer of protection, helping to reduce the risk of damage during shipping and handling.
Artwork and collectibles: Valuable or irreplaceable items, like paintings, sculptures, and collectible memorabilia, often require special care during transit to ensure they're not damaged. Packing peanuts can provide effective cushioning to protect these items during handling or long-distance shipping.
Moving and storage: When relocating, packing peanuts can be used to fill voids in boxes and containers to keep items stable and protected from damage caused by shifting within the box.
Environmental Impact and Sustainability
Traditional expanded polystyrene packing peanuts have faced criticism due to their impact on the environment. Not only is the production process energy-intensive, but the material is not biodegradable, taking hundreds or even thousands of years to break down in landfills. In addition, the lightweight nature of the peanuts means they can easily be carried away by wind and water, contributing to pollution in natural ecosystems.
In response to this, the development of eco-friendly packing peanuts has grown significantly over the past few decades. Biodegradable and compostable packing peanuts made from sustainable resources like cornstarch, wheat, or recycled paper offer a more environmentally friendly choice. These materials break down more rapidly in landfills or can even be composted in backyard compost bins.
Another approach to improving sustainability in the use of packing peanuts is through recycling programs. In some areas, recycling centers accept clean, reusable packing peanuts, reducing the need for new production.
Lastly, businesses and individuals can also explore alternative packaging materials, such as air pillows, foam-in-place, paper padding, or corrugated inserts, to reduce reliance on packing peanuts, potentially reducing their environmental impact while still ensuring the safe shipment of goods.
Styrofoam Packing Peanuts
Styrofoam packing peanuts are a widely used product for cushioning and protecting fragile items in transit. The use of Styrofoam packing peanuts can be traced back to the mid-20th century, and since then, these small foam pieces have become a staple material for providing necessary padding and support to fragile items during shipping. However, packing peanuts can also have a negative environmental impact, and in recent years, there has been a push to find more sustainable alternatives.
Composition and Properties
Styrofoam packing peanuts are typically made from a material called expanded polystyrene (EPS). Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic that is derived from the polymerization of styrene monomers. In its expanded form, Styrofoam is light, porous, and can be easily molded and cut into a variety of shapes. The primary property that makes Styrofoam packing peanuts effective for cushioning fragile items is their ability to absorb shocks and distribute pressure evenly through their material structure.
Expanded polystyrene foam is composed of up to 98% air, making it extremely lightweight. The low weight of packing peanuts means that they do not add much in terms of shipping costs when used to protect items. The foam is also resistant to moisture, which is beneficial when transporting items that need protection from humidity or water exposure.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Styrofoam packing peanuts have several advantages as a packaging material. These include:
Lightweight: As mentioned above, packing peanuts are incredibly light due to their high air content. This property keeps shipping costs low and prevents unnecessary weight from being added to packages.
Cushioning: Packing peanuts provide effective cushioning for fragile items by conforming to the shape of the object in the box, reducing any gap that would allow for the item to move during shipping. The peanuts can also absorb the force of impacts, lowering the risk of damage.
Versatility: Packing peanuts can be used with a wide range of products and materials, making them a popular choice for shipping various fragile items.
However, there are several disadvantages to using Styrofoam packing peanuts:
Environmental Impact: Styrofoam is not biodegradable, and improperly disposed packing peanuts can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. They can also end up in oceans, endangering marine life and contributing to pollution.
Static Electricity: Styrofoam peanuts can generate static electricity, which can potentially damage sensitive electronic components. This issue has led to the development of anti-static versions of packing peanuts.
Messiness: Styrofoam packing peanuts tend to cling to surfaces and can create a mess during packing and unpacking. They can also be difficult to clean up after use.
Recycling Options and Alternatives
As concerns grow over the environmental impact of Styrofoam packing peanuts, there has been an increased focus on recycling these materials and finding more sustainable alternatives.
Various recycling programs accept Styrofoam packing peanuts, often with the requirement that they are clean and sorted separately from other recyclables. Many shipping stores, such as UPS and FedEx locations, also accept packing peanuts for reuse or recycling. However, not all communities have access to convenient recycling options for this type of material.
In response to the demand for more eco-friendly packaging materials, several alternatives to Styrofoam packing peanuts have emerged:
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts: These peanuts are made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, which can break down naturally and be disposed of via composting. They provide similar cushioning and support while minimizing the environmental impact.
Air Pillows: Rather than using foam peanuts, air pillows can be used to fill the empty spaces in packages. They are lightweight, reusable, and can be easily deflated and recycled when they are no longer needed.
Paper-Based Cushioning: Materials like shredded paper or crumpled kraft paper can provide an effective cushioning layer for fragile items. These materials can be easily recycled, reducing their environmental footprint.
As sustainability becomes a greater concern in the packaging industry, it is likely that more innovative alternatives to Styrofoam packing peanuts will continue to develop. Finding a balance between effective protection for shipped items and reducing environmental impact will be essential for the future of packaging materials.
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Biodegradable packing peanuts are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional packing peanuts, which are made from non-degradable materials like polystyrene. These peanuts are designed to offer cushioning and protection to fragile items during shipping while reducing their environmental impact. In this article, we will discuss the composition and properties of biodegradable packing peanuts, their advantages and disadvantages, and their disposal and environmental impact.
Composition and Properties
Biodegradable packing peanuts are often made from natural, plant-based materials such as cornstarch, wheat, or potato starch. These materials break down more easily in the environment compared to petroleum-based materials like polystyrene. The manufacturing process of biodegradable packing peanuts begins with the plant-based starches being heated and expanded to create a foam-like structure. This structure then hardens and is cut into the familiar peanut shape.
The properties of biodegradable packing peanuts make them suitable for use as protective packaging materials. They are lightweight, reducing the overall weight of a package and its shipping cost. They also offer excellent cushioning and shock absorption, making them ideal for protecting fragile items during transportation.
Biodegradable packing peanuts can also provide some level of moisture resistance due to their starch-based composition. However, this resistance may be less effective compared to traditional packing peanuts, as biodegradable peanuts can dissolve in water or become damaged if exposed to moisture for long periods.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are several advantages to using biodegradable packing peanuts as opposed to traditional, non-biodegradable packing material. First and foremost is their environmental friendliness. As mentioned earlier, biodegradable packing peanuts are made from plant-based materials that break down more easily in the environment, making them a more sustainable option. In addition, the production of these peanuts requires less energy and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum-based materials.
Biodegradable packing peanuts also provide a sanitary and hypoallergenic option for consumers, as they are made from natural materials that are less likely to cause irritation or trigger allergies compared to synthetic materials.
However, there are also some disadvantages to consider. Biodegradable packing peanuts can be more expensive than traditional packing materials, which may be an important consideration for businesses and individuals shipping large quantities of items. As mentioned earlier, they can also be less moisture-resistant than polystyrene peanuts, which could pose a problem for items that require moisture protection during transport.
Disposal and Environmental Impact
One of the primary benefits of biodegradable packing peanuts is their lower environmental impact. When it comes to disposal, these eco-friendly peanuts break down more easily, meaning they can decompose in a shorter amount of time, reducing the potential for environmental harm. This is particularly important, as packing peanuts often find their way into natural environments like rivers, oceans, and landfills where they can cause damage to ecosystems and wildlife.
There are several ways to dispose of biodegradable packing peanuts responsibly. Many local recycling centers accept them, enabling them to be broken down and used as compost or mulch. Some landfills may also be able to compost or recycle the peanuts, although it's essential to check with the guidelines of the landfill you're using.
In addition to these formal channels of disposal, biodegradable peanuts can be composted in home compost bins, or even dissolved in water (although this method might be more time-consuming and less practical for large quantities of peanuts).
While biodegradable packing peanuts do offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional packing materials, it's still essential to be mindful of their ecological impact. Handling and disposing of these peanuts responsibly can help to ensure a minimal negative effect on the environment while still providing effective packaging protection.
Cornstarch Packing Peanuts
Packing peanuts are widely used in packaging materials for shipping fragile items, and cornstarch packing peanuts have been developed as a more environment-friendly alternative to the traditional petroleum-based varieties. Made using cornstarch, these biodegradable packing materials aim to minimize the impact on the environment while serving their intended purpose for safely transporting fragile items. In this article, we will discuss the composition and properties of cornstarch packing peanuts, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their disposal and environmental impact.
Composition and Properties
Cornstarch packing peanuts are primarily made from cornstarch, which is a carbohydrate extracted from corn kernels. The manufacturing process combines cornstarch with water and a foaming agent, and then the mixture is heated and extruded to expand it into the familiar peanut-shaped packing material.
The properties of cornstarch packing peanuts make them suitable for packaging purposes, as they are lightweight, resilient, and able to absorb shocks and impacts. They have a similar texture and appearance to conventional packing peanuts made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) or polyethylene (PE) foams but are distinguishable by their characteristic off-white or pale yellow color.
One notable property is their solubility in water. Cornstarch packing peanuts dissolve when exposed to water, and it's a feature that sets them apart from traditional petroleum-based packing peanuts, which are not water-soluble. This property is both advantageous in terms of the environment and disposal, as well as a disadvantage in packaging situations where the peanuts may come into contact with moisture.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Cornstarch packing peanuts offer several clear advantages over their petroleum-based counterparts, especially when it comes to their environmental impact. Some of the key benefits are as follows:
Biodegradability: Their most significant advantage is that they are biodegradable, breaking down into natural components when exposed to moisture and microbial activity in the environment. This is in contrast to petroleum-based packing peanuts, which can take hundreds of years to degrade and contribute to increased plastic pollution.
Renewable resources: Cornstarch packing peanuts are made from renewable plant material, making them a more sustainable option compared to petroleum-based packing peanuts derived from limited fossil fuel resources.
Non-toxic: Cornstarch packing peanuts are non-toxic and pose no threat to the environment or human health. On the other hand, petroleum-based packing peanuts can contain harmful chemicals that may leach into the soil or water sources.
However, there are some disadvantages associated with cornstarch packing peanuts as well:
Susceptibility to moisture: As mentioned earlier, cornstarch packing peanuts dissolve in water, which can be a drawback in situations where the packaged items need protection from moisture. It means that the packaging materials must be carefully chosen to ensure that water doesn't come into contact with the packing peanuts.
Limited cushioning: While cornstarch packing peanuts share similar shock-absorption properties with their petroleum-based counterparts, they tend to have slightly lower cushioning efficiency. This factor may make them less suitable for extremely fragile items or items that require prolonged shock protection.
Disposal and Environmental Impact
The disposal of cornstarch packing peanuts is relatively straightforward as they readily dissolve in water, making it easier to dispose of them after use. Simply putting them in water will cause them to break down, leaving a solution that can be safely poured down the drain or into the garden with minimal environmental impact.
In terms of their environmental impact, cornstarch packing peanuts are undoubtedly a more eco-friendly option compared to their petroleum-based counterparts. As they are made from renewable resources and are biodegradable, their production and disposal have a significantly lower carbon footprint. However, it's essential to note that corn cultivation still requires land, water, and energy resources, which could put pressure on the environment if not managed sustainably.
Overall, cornstarch packing peanuts represent a positive step towards reducing plastic pollution and the environmental burden associated with shipping materials. As technology continues to advance, the efficiency and sustainability of cornstarch packing peanuts are expected to improve, making them an even more attractive alternative to petroleum-based counterparts.
Recycled Paper Packing Peanuts
Packing peanuts have long been used to protect and cushion delicate items during shipping. One type of packing peanut, the recycled paper packing peanut, has gained popularity due to its minimal environmental impact and sustainable nature. This article takes a closer look at recycled paper packing peanuts— their composition, properties, advantages, disadvantages, recycling options, and environmental impact.
Composition and Properties
Recycled paper packing peanuts are made from post-consumer materials such as recycled paper or cardboard. That means they come from sources like old newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes, and office paper waste. During the manufacturing process, the recycled materials are shredded, and a binding agent is added before being formed into the distinctive peanut shape.
The primary properties of recycled paper packing peanuts include:
1. Lightweight: Recycled paper packing peanuts are designed to be light in weight without losing their cushioning ability. This lightweight nature helps to reduce shipping costs and ease the handling and transport process.
Shock absorption: The primary purpose of packing peanuts is to provide protection to fragile items during shipping. Recycled paper packing peanuts achieve this by evenly distributing and absorbing the impact of any shocks and vibrations during transit.
Sustainability: Because they are made from post-consumer waste materials, recycled paper packing peanuts help to reduce the demand for new paper materials while extending the life cycle of existing paper waste.
Biodegradability: Unlike their traditional counterparts (such as polystyrene peanuts), recycled paper packing peanuts are biodegradable, meaning they will break down naturally over time and have a much lower potential to harm the environment.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are several advantages to using recycled paper packing peanuts, including:
Environmentally friendly: As mentioned earlier, recycled paper packing peanuts are made from post-consumer waste and are biodegradable, making them an eco-friendly alternative to other packing materials.
Cost-effective: Because they are made from recycled materials, paper packing peanuts are typically more affordable than their non-recycled counterparts.
Better cushioning: In comparison with other packing materials, like newspaper and bubble wrap, recycled paper packing peanuts provide superior cushioning and protection for fragile items during shipping.
However, there are also some disadvantages:
Limited water resistance: Recycled paper packing peanuts generally have limited water resistance, meaning they may lose their structural integrity when exposed to moisture.
Increased dust and allergens: The nature of recycled paper materials means there may be more dust and allergens present in the packing peanuts than in non-recycled options, potentially causing issues for people with allergies or sensitivities.
Recycling Options and Environmental Impact
Recycled paper packing peanuts can be recycled in various ways, primarily through two methods:
Collection centers: Some local recycling centers accept paper packing peanuts for recycling as part of their program. This is especially true for facilities that process mixed waste.
Reuse: Recycled paper packing peanuts can be reused for personal shipping or other packaging needs. Not only does this extend the life of this packing material, but it also reduces the demand for new resources.
Given their biodegradable nature, the environmental impact of recycled paper packing peanuts is significantly lower than that of traditional packaging materials, such as polystyrene peanuts. When these peanuts find their way into the environment, they will break down and decompose more quickly, reducing the likelihood of long-term pollution.
Moreover, by using post-consumer materials in their manufacture, recycled paper packing peanuts help to divert waste from landfills, which contributes positively to the overall lifecycle assessment of this sustainable packaging material. In conclusion, recycled paper packing peanuts are a practical, eco-friendly, and cost-effective option for protecting delicate items during shipping while minimizing environmental harm.
Polystyrene (Styrofoam) Peanuts
Choosing the Right Type of Packing Peanuts
Factors to Consider
When selecting the right type of packing peanuts for your shipping needs, it's essential to take several factors into consideration, such as environmental impact, cost, protection requirements, and shelf life. Weighing the pros and cons of each type can help you make an informed decision that meets your specific needs.
One of the most critical factors to consider when choosing packing peanuts is the impact on the environment. Traditional polystyrene peanuts are made from non-renewable petrochemicals and are non-biodegradable, meaning they can contribute to pollution and waste in landfills. In contrast, biodegradable packing peanuts are made from sustainable materials like cornstarch and can break down naturally over time, reducing their environmental impact.
Cost and Availability
Another essential factor to consider is the cost and availability of packing peanuts. While polystyrene peanuts are often more affordable and readily available, they can be more expensive in the long run due to environmental regulations and tariffs. On the other hand, while biodegradable peanuts may initially be more expensive, they can be cost-effective in the long term when considering the reduced environmental impact and potential savings from recycling programs.
Protection and Cushioning Requirements
Different types of packing peanuts provide varying levels of protection and cushioning for your packages. Polystyrene peanuts offer excellent shock absorption and are lightweight, making them suitable for fragile and delicate items. In comparison, biodegradable peanuts may not provide the same level of protection, but they are also lightweight and can be more suitable for consumers concerned about the environmental impact of their packaging materials. Anti-static peanuts are specifically designed to protect electronic equipment and other items sensitive to static electricity. Consider the type of items you'll be shipping and their fragility when choosing the appropriate packing peanuts.
Shelf Life and Storage
Packing peanuts can take up valuable storage space in your home or business, so it's essential to consider the shelf life and storage requirements of each type. Polystyrene peanuts typically have a longer shelf life and are not affected by humidity or temperature changes, making them easy to store for extended periods. Conversely, biodegradable peanuts can be more susceptible to moisture and may have a shorter shelf life. Consider your storage space availability and climate when selecting the best packing peanuts for your needs.
Comparing Different Types of Packing Peanuts
Polystyrene (Styrofoam) Peanuts
Polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, is the most common type of packing peanut. These peanuts are lightweight, moisture-resistant, and offer excellent shock absorption for fragile items. However, they are made from non-biodegradable materials and can harm the environment when disposed of improperly.
Biodegradable packing peanuts are an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional polystyrene peanuts. Made from sustainable materials like cornstarch or potato starch, biodegradable peanuts can break down naturally over time, reducing their environmental impact. While they may not provide the same level of cushioning as polystyrene peanuts, they are often preferred by eco-conscious consumers and businesses.
Anti-static peanuts are specifically designed to protect electronic equipment and sensitive items from static electricity damage during shipping. These peanuts are made from materials that don't generate static electricity and are typically coated with an anti-static chemical compound. While they are more expensive than traditional polystyrene peanuts, they offer added protection for delicate electronic items.
In conclusion, when choosing the right type of packing peanuts for your shipping needs, it's essential to consider factors like environmental impact, cost, protection requirements, and storage. By carefully evaluating the differences between polystyrene peanuts, biodegradable peanuts, and anti-static peanuts, you can select the best packing material to ensure your items reach their destination securely and safely, while minimizing your environmental footprint.
Best Practices for Using Packing Peanuts
Packing peanuts are a popular choice for cushioning and protecting delicate items during shipping. They have been in use for decades and are especially useful when packing items with irregularly shaped surfaces. However, using packing peanuts comes with its own set of unique challenges, as they can be messy and difficult to manage. This article will discuss the top practices for using packing peanuts, including packing techniques to ensure product safety, reuse and repurposing ideas, and responsible disposal and recycling.
Packing Techniques to Ensure Product Safety
When using packing peanuts, it is crucial to ensure that they provide adequate protection for the shipped items. Here are a few packing techniques that can help:
Choose the right type of packing peanuts: There are various types of packing peanuts available on the market. As a general rule, choose an anti-static packing peanut for electronics, a biodegradable or compostable option for environmentally conscious consumers, and a standard packing peanut for other items.
Pre-fill the box: Before placing the item in the shipping box, fill the bottom portion with a layer of packing peanuts. This layer serves as a cushion, preventing the item from coming into direct contact with the box.
Place the item in the center: Once you have created a layer of packing peanuts, place the item in the middle of the box, surrounded by the cushioning material. This will ensure that the item is not touching any of the box's sides and is well insulated from shocks during shipping.
Fill the box completely: To provide maximum protection, fill the box with packing peanuts, ensuring that there are no empty spaces. This will help prevent the item from shifting during transit and minimize the risk of damage. Make sure to not overpack the box, as this can cause unnecessary pressure on the item.
Shake the box gently: Before sealing the box, gently shake it to help the packing peanuts settle and fill any voids in the box. This will further cushion the item and provide better protection.
Seal the box securely: Once your item is safely packed, seal the box using strong packing tape to ensure that the box remains closed during shipping.
Reuse and Repurposing Ideas
Given their environmental impact, repurposing packing peanuts is a responsible way to extend their lifespan while minimizing waste. Here are some creative reuse and repurposing ideas:
Reuse in future shipments: If you regularly send parcels, save and reuse packing peanuts for future shipping needs. This will save you money and help reduce waste.
Donate to local businesses or shipping stores: Many businesses or shipping stores accept donations of packing peanuts to reuse for their customers.
Use as filler material for crafts: Packing peanuts can be used in various craft projects as filler material. Some ideas include stuffing homemade pillows, bean bags, or soft toys.
Create insulation for potted plants: Packing peanuts can be placed at the bottom of potted plants to create insulation and improve drainage.
Offer them to friends or online community members: If you have an excess of packing peanuts, consider offering them to friends, neighbors, or online community members who may have a use for them.
Responsible Disposal and Recycling
To minimize the environmental impact of packing peanuts, it is essential to dispose of them responsibly. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Use biodegradable packing peanuts: These peanuts break down naturally over time, making them a more eco-friendly option. To determine if your packing peanuts are biodegradable, place one in water; if it dissolves, it's likely biodegradable.
Recycle through designated facilities: Some recycling centers accept packing peanuts for recycling. Check with your local facility to determine if they accept these materials.
Dispose of properly: If recycling is not an option in your area, dispose of the packing peanuts in a sealed bag to prevent them from scattering and creating litter.
By following these best practices for using packing peanuts, you can ensure that your items are well-protected during shipping while minimizing the impact on the environment.
1. What are the various types of packing peanuts available?
There are mainly three types of packing peanuts used for shipping and packing, namely: expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), biodegradable starch-based peanuts, and recycled or reclaimed packing peanuts.
2. What are the environmental impacts of different packing peanuts?
Expanded polystyrene foam peanuts are non-biodegradable and contribute to plastic pollution, while biodegradable starch-based peanuts decompose naturally, making them more environmentally friendly. Recycled peanuts help reduce waste by reusing existing materials.
3. Can biodegradable packing peanuts be used as a substitute for traditional foam peanuts?
Yes, biodegradable packing peanuts can effectively serve as a substitute for traditional foam peanuts. They offer similar cushioning and protection, while being eco-friendly and dissolving in water.
4. Are any packing peanuts considered safe for people with allergies?
Starch-based packing peanuts are considered a safer alternative for individuals with allergies, as they are made from natural materials like cornstarch and contain no additives known to cause allergic reactions.
5. How do I dispose of packing peanuts in an environmentally friendly way?
To dispose of packing peanuts responsibly, consider recycling or reusing foam peanuts, composting biodegradable peanuts, or finding local organizations that accept packing materials for reuse.
6. Can packing peanuts be used for purposes other than packaging?
Packing peanuts can be reused for various purposes, such as crafting projects, filling bean bags, insulating plant pots, and as a filler material for pillows or cushions.