Experiment: Dissolving starch packing peanuts

Above: A sink full of starch packing peanuts soaking in hot water. Below: The results, 24 hours later.
Conclusion: These packing peanuts are made of plastic.
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30 Responses to Experiment: Dissolving starch packing peanuts

  1. Bucket says:

    I like how several seem to be climbing out of the sink and making a break for it.

    Perhaps they’re packing materials made out of some sort of slug type creature? Perhaps try putting some salt on a few and see what happens.

  2. nixiebunny says:

    Tee hee. I have a friend who once tried to use packing peanuts as a swimming pool insulating cover, only to find that they were starch-based instead of plastic. Oops! It was a bit gooey and the filter took several backwashings to get all the starch out of the water.

  3. grimc says:

    So…who lied to you?

  4. drtwist says:

    unless my sink is dispensing amylase now, starch packing peanuts dissolve just fine without it.

  5. notatoad says:

    a swimming pool with a thick layer of foam peanuts (that aren’t water soluble) sounds like a ton of fun. now if only i had a swimming pool and a large quanitity of foam to try it with.

  6. technogeek says:

    #20: They’re probably a bit too small for this purpose; possible choking hazard, and hard to keep out of the skimmer. The more common solution for a “swim-through” insulating cover is plastic balls about 3″ in diameter, preferably of a dark color so they also act as solar heat collectors.

  7. Takuan says:

    build a steampunk laser and spectroscope and analyze them.

  8. pork musket says:

    Starch is only soluble in organic solvents.

  9. Rob Beschizza says:

    Set them on fire next and sniff them to see if they contain acrylates.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I recently disposed of starch packing pellets by dissolving them water in a plastic bucket. The result is a dense white solid. There is not enough lignin or cellulose to make into paper (I tried), so if anyone has any ideas let me know. One thought I had was to ferment the material with yeast.

  11. pork musket says:

    @20 Go to a gymnastics facility, they usually have springboards and foam pits.

    Oh wow, I just googled and found trampoline world. I want to go play!

  12. pork musket says:

    Hit them with some turpentine or mineral spirits or nail polish remover and they should dissolve right away.

  13. Dapremonster says:

    Put them in your mouth and see if they dissolve. I mean, that’s what I always do…

  14. Tubman says:

    Write, direct, produce and star in an award-winning documentary which chronicles your experiences as you eat packing peanuts exclusively for 30 days.

  15. Reverend Loki says:

    They should dissolve readily in saliva. Amylase, a digestive enzyme, breaks down starch quite readily.

    If you don’t think you can produce enough human saliva to do the trick, saliva from most mammals contain it, especially the more herbivorous. Don’t expect to be able to borrow the neighbor’s Great Dane for the task, though; neither dogs nor cats have salivary amylase (the enzyme isn’t introduced into their systems until the small intestine).

  16. strider_mt2k says:

    Sounds about right.

    Take this stuff over to the Dromedary House and let the Camels spit all over it.

    THEN put…put it in, um…in your sink.

    Okay new plan…

  17. technogeek says:

    The real question is how to keep plastic packing peanuts from coming into the house in the first places. The darned things _shed_, and develop a static charge easily; the fragments are almost as annoying and hard to get rid of as a fruit fly invasion.

    I definitely give preference to companies who send me stuff packed in air bags or shredded paper or … well, just about anything other than the peanuts.

  18. elisd says:

    Those don’t look like starch peanuts. In my experience, the starch ones look more like big beige cheetos (the puffy kind) and a little spit noticably starts dissolving them.

  19. coop says:

    Yep, ELISD’s right. Them ya got are not made of starch…


  20. muteboy says:

    #9 They look like that because they are exactly that: Stale, unflavoured Cheetos/Wotsits.

    I did this experiment with a load of starch ones in my sink, and they dissolved with water in about 5 minutes, leaving a sticky gooey mess which had to be rinsed away. I’m lucky it didn’t clog the pipes.

  21. jordawesome says:

    Are you for certain these are dissolving packing peanuts?

    We got a parcel a while ago that was chock full of dissolving peanuts. I melted them in the sink in water temperatures ranging from ‘scalding,’ to ‘witches’ teat.’ — no organic solvents required.

  22. Anonymous says:

    the starch peanuts are usually cylinder shaped as opposed to the normal “peanut” shape. try them with a little soy sauce.

  23. Joel Johnson says:

    According to Science, I would gather these are not starch.

  24. ryan7107 says:

    Yeah, those are definitely not the starch ones. Like the others said, look for cheeto-looking ones. When I worked for UPS, I used to eat those things by the handful. Not really tasty.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I worked for a company that used to buy overstock magazines, unused fliers, etc. that companies where going to trash them anyway, it cost next to nothing, and then run them through industrial shredders and use that as packing material for shipping (green, and more importantly cheap).

    However, as we found out, shredded paper is just about the most awesome flammable material ever, it only takes one random spark from a malfunctioning paper shredder… and needless to say the insurance company insisted that we switch to conventional packing peanuts.

  26. Tomas says:

    A few years ago, one of our vendors claimed to have started using biodegradable starch packing knurdles, so we tested some and they were the same plastic everyone else was using.

    For some reason that really annoyed us.

    We dropped them a letter letting them know the results of our testing, and further letting them know that we had several of their packing peanuts floating in a jar full of water sitting in the sun in one of our office windows, and would order from them again as soon as the peanuts biodegraded…

  27. Anonymous says:

    Some are, some aren’t. People seem to have a tough time telling which is which so here’s the easy way: squeeze it flat between your fingers. If it bounces back, it’s regular styrofoam. If it stays flat, it’s made of corn starch and will dissolve in water. The corn ones actually resemble a Cheeto in texture. Next time, try one or two at a time.

  28. nehpetsE says:

    If look closely at the pixels, it appears that the sink is mounted upside down on the ceiling. The peanuts will not dissolve because all the water falls out on the floor.

    Further more, the peanuts in the second picture are not the same ones pictured in the top picture.

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