1991 - Volume #15, Issue #4, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Packing peanuts made out of corn
Dubbed "Eco-Foam" by the manufacturer, National Starch & Chemical, the new corn-based product feels like poly peanuts, sounds like them and protects products the same but without the problem of disposal and without any petrochemical damage to the environment during the manufacturing process.
Eco-Foam was developed by accident in 1988 at a research center where scientists were working on a project to develop cereals that wouldn't get soggy in milk. When they unexpectedly came up with a material that resembled styrofoam, the marketing people got interested.
Rob Asselin, market development manager for Eco-Foam, says demand has been almost unbelievable in the few short months that it has been available. "Everyone's looking for a way to get away from poly peanuts because of evironmental concerns even though it has always been one of the best-performing packing materials you can buy. Some have even tried using popcorn but that smells, breaks down, and attracts rodents. All flavor and aroma are removed from Eco-Foam during manufacturing."
Made from a special cornstarch that's extracted from a corn hybrid called Hylon II, developed 20 years ago by National Starch, Eco-Foam pellets perform just like poly peanuts with the added advantage that they're naturally anti-static so they won't cling to your hands or clothing. One disadvantage is that if a package gets wet, Eco-Foam will dissolve but Asselin says that if a package gets that wet the product being shipped will probably be damaged anyway. "Eco-Foam could be designed to be less water sensitive but we would have to add more synthetic components and they would not decompose as fast."
Eco-Foam is 95 percent cornstarch with the rest made up of water and alcohol. One bushel of corn makes three and a half 12-cu. ft. bags of pellets. Most of the special cornstarch needed is produced at a plant in Indiana. Although the company currently has an adequate supply of the hybrid corn, as demand grows for the new packing product they will be looking to put more growers under contract.
The market for polystyrene peanuts is about $80 million a year in the U.S. American Excelsior, the company licensed to market Eco-Foam, is already selling the new product across most of the U.S. and hopes to have it available throughout North America in the near future. Eco-Foam sells for about twice the cost of polystyrene peanuts but costs less than popcorn or paper packing.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, American Excelsior Co., 850 Avenue H East, P.O. Box 5067, Arlington, Tex. 76005 (ph 817 640-1555).
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