Peanuts are tasty. Packing peanuts, on the other hand, are not.

Did you know that the little styrofoam peanuts that come inside the boxes after those online shopping splurges, along with other styrofoam products make up “30%” of our landfill space? There’s about seven billion people on this planet and each person averages out about “5 pounds” of trash a day (Rissanen). After doing some math, that comes out around 1 ton of trash per person in a year alone! That is quite concerning, especially considering how the human population continues to grow year after year.

Companies often use packing peanuts to prevent damage to fragile objects during shipping. However, at what expense are they shipping the product? More often than not, these packing peanuts are more detrimental to the environment in the long run. The future of sustainable shipping heavily depends on companies’ environmentally friendly packaging implementation of methods.

For example, biodegradable packing peanuts are on the rise. They offer the same protection guarding goods while also not contributing to mountainous landfills and water pollution. Biodegradable packing peanuts often consist of “plant-based ingredients, such as wheat or cornstarch” which means that they dissolve easily upon “contact with water” (Levins). As they often dissolve upon liquid contact, they essentially leave no trace behind; ultimately this makes it the ideal packaging method to use when transporting any fragile items!

Now, what about the actual compartment in which the goods are shipped in? Cardboard boxes and plastic envelopes? I think not. Cardboard and plastic are much harder to recycle as they take a long time to be processed and repurposed. Also, considering how most people do not even bother to place them in recycling bins in the first place allows them to continue taking up space in landfills. The mindset of “use and throw” has been on the rise and it needs to be stopped. Shipping companies should address this problem by considering an alternative to cardboard and plastic.

Steel boxes might sound extreme to the average listener however when acknowledging the longevity of future sustainable shipping, it seems much more reasonable. More and more people are less likely going to throw away a steel box than a cardboard one as they might find a potential use for it later on- whether that be to store their tools in their garage or keep their lunch in. And if not to reuse these steel boxes at home, companies should offer places where those boxes can be dropped off in order to be reused again for future shipping orders. Not only does this save the company millions if not billions of dollars that goes to buying shipping materials each year, but it also provides a sustainable and environment-friendly method of shipping. Customers are also going to be more inclined in buying products from companies that care about the environment. When we think about several big-name stores, why is it that they specifically state that they are animal-cruelty free or vegan? They are cognizant that most customers are hesitant and opposed to non-ethical corporations in this current day and age.

Companies cannot go wrong in adopting environmentally friendly packaging. The question here is: why are there not more companies doing it?

Works Cited

Levins, Cory. “Air Sea Containers Compliance Blog.” What Makes Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Degrade?

Levins, Cory. “Rissanen, Eija. “Styrofoam Recycling Facts.” Sciencing, 22 Oct. 2019

Essay by: Amritha Poozhikunnath Manojkumar
C. T. Bauer Honors College of Business at the University of Houston

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