St. Thomas company collects used packing material, gives it away

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ST. THOMAS - The holiday season is a time for shipping and receiving packages and gifts, but what to do with all those pesky packing peanuts?

Don't throw them in the dumpster, give them to someone who can use them.

Caribbean Packaging has been running a packing material and boxes recycling program for 21 years, collecting and distributing the material free of charge to anyone who can use it.

The project was the idea of Scott Martin, owner of Caribbean Packaging, a wholesale and retail business operating since 1968 on St. Thomas.

In 1992, Martin started the recycling program after he noticed a dumpster overflowing with tiny plastic packing peanuts and thought it was a waste.

Martin encourages anyone getting rid of packing material - peanuts, bubble wrap and cardboard boxes - to drop it off at Caribbean Packaging in Contant instead of taking it to the dump.

In return, businesses or individuals with a need for the material can pick up whatever Martin has in stock for free.

Connections on St. John has been participating in the program since it began, according to owner Cid Hamling.

"We try to get people to recycle, so we hold on to stuff from packages that they received," she said.

When Martin's trucks are on St. John making deliveries, he will stop by and pick up any materials Hamling has saved that customers have not already used up, she said.

Eric Lidicker, studio manager for Donald Schnell Studio on St. John, also collects used boxes and packing material from residents to help them ship fragile pottery all over the world.

"We've been doing that for 30 years," he said.

He also uses shredded paper donated by local businesses, he said.

Martin belongs to a group of like-minded business owners working to recycle packing peanuts. The Plastic Loose-Fill Council, based in Oakland, runs a website - - where people can find drop-off and pick-up locations for recycled material.

Caribbean Packaging is the only designated drop-off location in the territory, but Martin said he would be glad to help any other business establish a similar program.

Martin said another way to reduce packing material is to buy local goods and forego the need for all those plastic peanuts, which has the added benefit of supporting the local economy.

"As I like to say, spend it here, keep it here," he said.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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