While it was fun to receive a pile of holiday packages from faraway family, I now have enough packing peanuts to fill a closet. And not the eco-friendly kind, either. Feeling perplexed, I turned to the Web, where I found several clever ways to reuse the petroleum-based polystyrene peanuts, which can take — gasp! — hundreds of years to break down.• The easiest solution is to drop them off at shipping stores like Mail Boxes, Etc., or offer them up to any business that does a lot of shipping. Call ahead to make sure they'll accept the peanuts. You can also list them on Craigslist or Freecycle in the hopes that someone has a lot of shipping to do and wants to save cash.
• My favorite reuse idea, which I've already done in my backyard, is to place the peanuts in the bottom of potted plants. They provide drainage but don't add weight to the planter like rocks or gravel.
• Stuff them in a sealed plastic bag and layer over the ice in an ice chest. They provide great insulation.
• Use them to hold brad and finish nails in place so you don't smash your fingers when hammering. After a few taps, simply pull the peanut away.
• The peanuts make a comfy filling for pet pillows, though you shouldn't do this if your animal chews on everything in sight, because they can be a choking hazard (likewise, be careful if you have small children).
• A peanut works as well as a foam brush for applying glue and other adhesives.
• Save them to pad next year's Santa costume or a Halloween costume that requires lightweight filling. They're useful for other crafts, as well.
• Place them on the tips of sharp tools so nobody gets stuck fingers when rummaging in a toolbox.
• They float! Use a needle to thread together a few peanuts for a keychain next time you're out boating, just in case.
• I don't advocate fake flowers (they're a pet peeve), but if you do have silk arrangements, you can use peanuts at the bottom of a too-tall vase.
• Refill that deflated beanbag chair in your basement.
• If you used too large a drill bit, drill a screw into the peanut, then cut off the excess foam once the screw is in.
Do you have any creative ideas for reusing foam peanuts?