Saturday, December 09, 2006
After receiving my bazillionth shipment of gifts, I realized that every single shipper is using styrofoam peanuts in larger than necessary boxes this year. Wow, I thought, with the increase in shipping items from the internet, maybe I should invest in a company that produces these things. So I sat down and googled them.
I never got to find out about the manufacturers because I found out so many interesting things about these peanuts. You can search yourself, or I can provide you with a summary of important information:
1. A lot of people feel guilty about using these harmful-for-the-environment peanuts but use them anyways.
2. The biodegradable type are said to be more expensive and it is claimed they don't do as good a job in cushioning as styrofoam. They are made from cornstarch (read this book and find out why corn is evil and creatives a negative energy balance) and if they get wet they dissolve, not a good feature, and one that makes companies that rely on their shipments arriving intact nervous. Here is a good explanation from Crutchfield, a website that I order from, and is one of the companies that started me down this road of curiosity.
3. Some people get quite upset when the idea of boycotting companies that use sytrofoam peanuts is brought up.
4. Big companies don't buy the actual peanuts. They have a machine that creates and shoots peanuts directly into the boxes. I have tried to find the site where I saw this, and I can't, so it may not be true, and I couldn't find a manufacturer of a machine that might make the peanuts on the spot - though it made sense since storing them would be quite cumbersome. When I was driving in Namibia I noticed that they graded the roads with ground up rocks which they made right there on the spot from rocks gathered just off the side of the road (making the road and the side of the road the same color, which doesn't make for a very safe driving environment, since it is uber-flat, dry as a bone, no trees, no other cars and thus mesmerizing when everything in front of you is the same color and tone). It made much more sense than hauling crushed stone around when they could crush it right there.
5. Sytrofoam peanuts are not recyclable through curbside recycling, but they can be recycled by taking them to certain companies that accept them, such as Mailboxes Etc. (who will probably just resell them to you the next time you go in) and Williams Sonoma.
6. There is a fun-sounding experiment involving styrofoam peanuts and nail polish remover.
7. They are made from expanded polystyrene, or EPS, and are generally categorized with plastics.
8. They seem big, but are 95% air and 5% never-to-leave-this-earth chemicals.
9. Polystyrene is, thankfully, no longer made using chlorofluorocarbons.
10. Dow Chemical invented polystyrene resin in 1938, and styrofoam appears to be a brand name that they either own or coined. I'm too lazy to research this particular factoid further. EPS isn't the same thing as other things we tend to call styrofoam, but it is all very subtle and I don't really care about the difference. Unless you are in that business or a chemist I'm not sure it matters.
11. Naturally, this industry has a lobbying organization.
12. I have now rethunk my initial and very stupid idea of investing in a company that would make this pollutant.
Happy holidays and remember to mail your EPS peanuts to somebody else so they can be the ones burdened with the guilt of throwing them in the landfill, and you can have a happy and toxic-free 2007!