Environment, company may profit from 'peanuts'


A Jessup factory has started producing a new kind of whit packaging "peanut" that dissolves in water, can be composted into fertilizer and can even be eaten, though the makers don't recommend them as a dining experience.

Art Buckingham, Maryland branch manager for American Excelsior Co., said yesterday that the corn starch-based "Eco-Foam" pellets are an alternative to standard white polystyrene foam "peanuts." The company, based in Arlington, Texas, is one of the nation's biggest producers of plastic packaging materials, he said.

Polystyrene pellets have caused environmental problems, Mr. Buckingham said. Pollutants are often released into the air when they're made, and used polystyrene takes decades to decompose.

In addition, unpacking boxes with the foam pellets can turn into a static cling nightmare, since the plastic often sticks to sweaters, rugs, socks and hair.

But the company claims that the tasteless, odorless Eco-Foam pellets don't pollute and don't cling.

Eco-Foam, which costs twice the 75-cents-per-cubic-foot price of standard "peanuts," probably shouldn't be used for packing wine or other liquids, Mr. Buckingham said. The protection would melt away if one of the bottles broke.

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