Reusing and Recycling Burlap and Excelsior from your Pallet Shipment

Today, sitting in your driveway or front yard, sits a package you ordered from Inside this package is that cast stone fountain you have been waiting to add to your outdoor area, you will also find packing material. Be it bubble wrap, foam, peanuts, newspaper, burlap, or hay this material is going to end up in the same place, the trash can. If you order something small, the packing material isn’t something you really need to worry about, but what if you did order that tiered fountain you’ve been lusting over for years?

Or how about a fountain in a basin to add to the general aesthetic of your garden – maybe two large dragons for your entryway to show your fondness of the mystical? UPS and Fed-Ex cannot ship pieces so large to your door in tight packages (no one invented shrink rays yet).  So, imagine all of that packing material sitting across your front yard with no where to go but the trash.  Just remember that you essentially just paid for all of that lovely excelsior and burlap – two of the most commonly used packing materials for palletized shipments. Why not find another use for it? Make it work for you or donate it to a garden center/ hardware store/ park/ co-op because the two materials mentioned above are two of the most versatile substances that can be used in a garden or landscape.

Packaging Photo
Excelsior Is Often Added to Pallet Shipments

Excelsior is untreated wood shavings used almost exclusively by companies for packing or stuffing. This material is biodegradable and great for more than beefing up your compose bin. Because excelsior makes such a terrific packing material, it also creates an exemplary form of insulation for winterizing statuary and newly planted shrubs and trees. When using it to winterize statuary, you will still need to cover the entire thing with a waterproof covering like a tarp Excelsior does hold water, which, when freezing and thawing, will cause damage to concrete, terra cotta, and fiberglass. As for winterizing your plants, new shrubs and trees are extremely susceptible to cold weather, and by providing insulation around the bases and trunks, you can ensure that at least the cold will not take part in killing your plants. The excelsior will allow water and air to move through to the ground. Again, you should cover the excelsior since it is easily blown away; just be sure to cover it in a sturdy material that will also allow water to move through to the ground – like burlap, but more on that later.

If nothing in your yard required winterizing and your compost bin were already full from the eggshells because of your strong like for eggnog, you could find some more creative ways to utilize your excess of excelsior. It could be used to line the inside of a chicken coop or the inside of a gift basket. You can fill the bottoms of pots with it before putting in the potting soil and plant to promote drainage and keep the planter from becoming too heavy, or you can place it over the potting soil to prevent losing soil in a heavy rainfall and keeping mosquitoes away. You can even make a dog bed stuffed with the excelsior.

There are many ways that you can reuse your excelsior packing material to your advantage, but what if you received burlap instead? Burlap is a sturdy, biodegradable fabric made from jute or hemp, and is possibly one of the most versatile fabrics you can find. The large weave of the fabric allows air and water to pass through easily; the materials used to produce burlap create a strong fabric not prone to ripping; and the fact that it is biodegradable means you do not need to worry about leaving it in your garden. After you first receive the burlap, it is a good idea to rinse it out to remove any debris from the shipper. (You are likely to find coffee beans and cocoa beans in the burlap; so, be sure to keep your pets away before you clean it.)

As mentioned before, burlap can be a useful tool in winterizing garden statuary and plants; however, it does hold in more heat than excelsior so use it sparingly. Thankfully, much like excelsior, there are many more uses for burlap than winterization. It is frequently used to help reduce erosion in garden beds and keep weeds and fungi down. Using biodegradable string, you can turn your burlap into small compost pillows. These can make it easy to concentrate the nutrients from the compost to a specific plant and not all of the weeds with it. Burlap can also be used to help move heavy objects, cover furniture so that it does not scratch, and, if you were feeling creative, make pillows for your back porch. For those of you that have a fire pit, try using burlap to cook your vegetables in hobo packs. Soak your burlap in water, place it on a slab of stone or metal over the fire, and place your foil-wrapped veggies, or whole ears of corn (not shucked), into the folds.

There are likely countless other uses for both excelsior and burlap in your garden or even in your home. You can choose to donate it, compost it, or repurpose it, but remember that it can as an added bonus to your purchase; so do not through it away.
By: Susan Soler of the Team