by George Cinna
Types of beanbag filling
Beanbags have come a long way since the first ones came on the market. Initially bean bags were filled with (you guessed it) beans! The problem with beans were that they attracted vermin, was heavy and if it got wet, accidentally, you were likely to end up with a rotten mess that wanted to grow. Nonetheless beans set the benchmark for fillings to come with it’s ability to smoothly conform to your body shape.
Polystyrene beads ( a type of polymer plastic) also known as Styrofoam is the most popular choice of filling used in bean bags today. This is because these beads closely emulates the characteristics of traditional beans in that it moves around in the bag and easily conforms to your body shape. The additional benefits of these beads are that they are lightweight and cheap.
On the downside, they do flatten over time if the beanbag gets used frequently and needs to be replaced or topped up. They are also non-recyclable and not biodegradable an important aspect to consider in today’s environmentally responsible world.
It not all bad news however, the beads are available in virgin and recycled options. The recycled beads can come in two versions. Firstly you get beads that are made from recycled plastics like drink bottles. They are identical to the virgin beads so ask the supplier about the origin of the beads because that is the only way you can differentiate between the two types.
Secondly you can also get 100% pre-consumer recycled polystyrene that is usually leftover polystyrene from other manufacturing processes that has been ground up. This come in 2 types, the first type comes in small chunks and the second get sorted into uniform sizes after being ground up. The pre-consumer recycled polystyrene is normally a cheaper option and save polystyrene waste from going to the landfill.
Shredded foam or polyurethane foam
Nowadays there is also the option of shredded foam. Filling bean bags with shredded foam became an innovative option to get rid of foam off-cuts as it was shredded into small pieces and not only used in beanbags but as fillings for pillows and budget sofa beds.
Shredded foam does not take on the shape of your body as easily as beans but the great benefit of foam is the cushion effect it has once you sit in the beanbag, something that you won’t get from polystyrene beads. The foam also springs back to its original shape which means it does not need to be replaced as frequently.
An issue that I have discovered with my seven foot large bean bag is that shredded foam can also be heavy. It is a fair workout to move my 7 foot beanbag around! So if you want to move your beanbag around the house often, I would say this is something to take into consideration.
Foam comes in different densities and some manufacturers of high quality bean bags choose to make up their own “blend” of foam fillings, this is of course to distinguish themselves from the competition. This however rules out using off-cuts as these are usually not in the blend ratios they want. As a result they may shred whole blocks of “virgin” foam and create their own blend.
The shredded foam usually gets vacuum packed for easier shipping and once the seal on the packaging is broken they slowly spring back to their original shape (a process that may take at least 24 hours or even longer to complete).
A word of warning if you’re planning on buying some cheap shredded foam. A reseller of large bean bags have told me of a shipment of shredded foam they had to throw away because the foam collapsed from being vacuum packed for a while. It may be worth paying the extra dollars to avoid such a catastrophe.
Polystyrene/Shredded foam blend.
Image source: the bean bag outlet
Naturally, it didn’t take long for some beanbag manufacturers to combine the benefits of both fillings. By blending the two you get the cushion effect from the foam combined with the body hugging ability of the beads. If you want to be creative you can experiment with the two types of filling. Polystyrene beads are readily available so you can blend it to your hearts content. If you use a blend, don’t forget to occasionally roll you beanbag around to keep the filling well mixed.
With a tendency to a more environmentally friendly living, some natural fillings is starting to make a comeback. Products such as peas, popcorn seeds and uncooked rice comes highly recommended. As long as you are aware of the risks involved with these products and are prepared to make the effort to control the hazards such as dampness and vermin . You should have no problems when using these products.
I hope this helps you decide on your next large bean bag filling. I would love to hear from you guys, what filling do you have in your current bean bag or planning to look for when you purchase your next bean bag?
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