Global Now / Week 7

Substituting Styrofoam packing peanuts with biodegradable material.

Anjana Singhwi

Section: Julianna Cope

Global Now: Abstract

Headline:  Substituting Styrofoam packing peanuts with biodegradable material.

Date:  10/17/2012

Source:  Article by Melanie J. Martin, Demand Media



Styrofoam is composed of Benzene, Styrene and Ethylene. These chemical compounds make Styrofoam highly toxic and carcinogenic. Packing peanuts commonly used in all shipping and moving companies in bulk, is made out of Styrofoam. Styrofoam takes several hundred years to decompose. I stumbled upon an article on The National Geographic website which suggested alternative, biodegradable and less toxic substitutes for packing material.

In the article by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the idea of biological metabolism is explained. There is a strong connection between both articles as they suggest that the life span of packing materials should be the same as the life span of the product.

Melanie J. Martin suggests the use of corn starch and unbuttered popcorn as eco-friendly substitutes for Styrofoam peanuts. Pea straws, rice husks and coconut husks can also provide cushioning for products. Unlike Styrofoam these natural materials boost biological metabolism and prevent toxic landfills and soil pollution.

She also suggests reduced package size, as an alternative solution, so as to reduce the use of excessive use of packaging material but I think that is not feasible in today’s world as boxes are mass produced and cannot be made to fit a particular object. Also, people don’t necessarily buy just one product. Thus, coming up with a package design that doesn’t require additional packing material is not as easy as it may seem.


Global Issue: Sustainability

Primary Design Lens: Biodegradable material


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