In the ideation phase of this project, I pondered 3 different items to pursue the production of a more sustainable alternative. From left to right, I considered ink cartridges, utensil trays, and packing peanuts. Of the three options, I discarded ink cartridges first because while it may be possible, the engineering behind producing a more sustainable printer ink cartridge is far more complex. Utensil trays were next in line to be discarded because a more sustainable form already exists through several production methods. What I was left with was packing peanuts, and I had a pretty interesting idea early into this project for them.
It was in my comparative analysis phase that I realized something about packing peanuts. There is already a rather efficient form of this item, consisting of a wheat or corn starch. Many packing alternatives already exist for packing peanuts. I noticed that a common repurpose for packing peanuts is to use them as a filler for planting. I thought to myself, how could a packing peanut be more efficiently structured to serve the purpose of planting something?
I committed to the idea of producing a biodegradable packing peanut infused with herb and flower seeds which can be used for more than one ship, and produce herbs and flowers when tossed out into soil.
On the left is the first prototype of the general shape I was going for with my packing peanuts. To produce a packing peanut, I boiled abaca sheets and blended them into a pulp. I then made sheets of paper, and while the abaca was still damp, I rolled the sheets while applying a lot of pressure. This results in a very durable packing peanut when the abaca drys out. On the right is the second round of prototyping. I produced smaller peanuts and marked them to indicate how the seeds might potentially be visible in the abaca mixture.
My final packing peanut exists in a cylindrical form, dyed with turmeric. The seeds are inside of the packing peanut versus being visible on the outside for the fact that the abaca breaks down when wet, and that the seeds must be contained safely up until the point that the peanuts might be planted somewhere. These packing peanuts withstood a very intense pressure test involving cohort members applying their full body weight to the packing peanuts. The results were that the peanut barely compresses despite being such a lightweight item. My professor, Gaby Hernandez planted a few of my packing peanuts which then sprouted and are continuing to grow.