alternative bean bag filling

Alternative Bean Bag Filling

Typically, bean bag filling is made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) beans as they are considered to be the best quality – known for outlasting other materials, they are great value for money. However, the question still remains What is an alternative bean bag filling?

Alternative bean bag filling includes, old clothes, shredded paper, cedar shavings, edible beans, rice, sawdust, hay, buckwheat hulls, pebbles and a few others.

Today’s article is all about assisting you in finding the best natural material to fill your bean bag, so it’s still your place of comfort and relaxation, without leaving your footprint on the environment.

Although a safe filling, it may be difficult to recycle the EPS beans. With more people today concerned about their impact on the environment, we explore alternative, eco-friendly options for bean bag fillings for you to consider.

So please, sit back, and enjoy the read.

Environmentally Friendly Bean Bag Filling


Did you know that the very first bean bag chairs designed were actually filled with organic beans? However, over the years, we stopped using natural materials. Here is a list of alternative, eco-friendly bean bag fillings for you to explore;

Cedar Shavings – 100% eco-friendly, cedar shavings have a variety of qualities, including decay resistance – it can naturally resist rot for 40 years or more. Cedar also has a beautiful natural scent that repels moths and other unwanted insects, whilst being calming for your mind and body. Consider combining cedar shavings with other natural bean bag fillers (see beans or rice below) for maximum comfort.

Cedar shavings can be found & gathered or purchased from landscaping businesses
Cedar shavings can be found & gathered or purchased from landscaping businesses


Beans – Just as the first bean bag chair designed in 1969, you can still fill your bean bag with, yep, you guessed it, beans.

The type of beans you choose to use is completely up to you – just ensure that they are dried and clean, other than that you can mix bean types without a worry. However, keep in mind that it will take you quite a lot to fill up your bean bag, so consider mixing it with another natural filler.


From coffee beans to dried beans. the choice is huge
From coffee beans to dried beans. the choice is huge


Rice – Another option that can be purchased from your local supermarket is a big bag of rice.

Your bean bag will then be a large version of the microwaveable heat packs. Once again though, try mixing rice and beans as this will make life a little easier on yourself in terms of gaining enough material to completely fill your bean bag.


uncooked rice
Rice (uncooked)


Sawdust – If you perform a lot of woodworking, chances are that you have a lot of leftover sawdust from your operations.

If not, it is available for purchase from many stores online. Sawdust makes a great bean bag filling as it is solid yet mouldable at the same time, making for maximum comfort. However, due to its’ known health hazards, including the fact it is a carcinogen, and may also contain certain toxins that produce severe allergic reactions, I only recommend you use this filling if you have a very strong and sturdy bean bag cover.


Sawdust is thrown away a lot of the time and completely wasted
Sawdust is thrown away a lot of the time and completely wasted


Hay – Once again easily available to anybody who lives in the country, or readily available for purchase online if required, hay is another eco-friendly bean bag filling alternative. You can also consider using straw (this is what results after the grain and chaff have been removed from the dry stalks of cereal plants and is typically used for animal bedding). Please ensure that if you use either of these materials, make sure they are dry before inserting them into your bean bag or you could find yourself with a big pile mould.


During drought seasons, hay can be expensive. However if sourced easily, it makes for a great bean bag filling
During drought seasons, hay can be expensive. However if sourced easily, it makes for a great bean bag filling


Buckwheat hulls – The hard-outer shell that house the seeds of buckwheat grain, these hulls have many qualities that make them ideal for a bean bag filler.

They are strong, have a beautiful fragrance, and do not retain heat or bacteria. As the hulls are quite strong, they don’t compress under pressure, so I do recommend mixing them with another natural bean bag filler such as beans or rice to achieve the optimum level of comfort.


Buckwheat hulls are consumed for their health benefits. And can also be used for filling
Buckwheat hulls are consumed for their health benefits. And can also be used for filling


Sand or small pebbles – Definitely as close to earth as you can possibly get and easy to collect, the only downfall to using this as a bean bag filling is that your bean bag will be a lot heavier and less versatile.


Makes for a heavy bean bag, but can be surprisingly comfortable
Makes for a heavy bean bag, but can be surprisingly comfortable


Old clothes or fabric – As you can see, there is no harm in mixing at least two or more of the different fillings.

And re-using old clothes, rags and other strips of fabric can make all the difference to the environment. Having your old fashion live on in comfort.


Old clothes are a popular choice as an eco-friendly alternative
Old clothes are a popular choice as an eco-friendly alternative


And you can also use old stuffed toys, smaller cushions or even shredded paper and newspapers.


Cheap Foam Filling Option

Last but not least might be the best option and one of the cheapest.

If you can get to a Clark Rubber store or a store that makes foam for furniture pieces (sofa lounges) you will be able to purchase cheap foam from them.

They have countless pieces all different shapes and sizes they simple need to get rid of.

To read more about filling your bean bag with crumb foam check out this post.

Crumb Foam off-cuts are very cheap
Crumb Foam off-cuts are very cheap

The main issue is that the “cut-off” pieces will be varying densities and colours.

However being inside a bean bag, nobody will know 🙂

I was once at a Clark rubber store and took as much as I would carry in my hands and the store clerk simply charged me $10.


How to Recycle Your Eco-Friendly Bean Bag Filling

Although your eco-friendly bean bag is very durable, unfortunately it will not last forever.

After several years have passed, you will most likely to need to replace your bean bag filling. Depending on which eco-friendly material you have chosen, you can reuse or recycle your bean bag filling in a number of different ways;

1. Use the filling for another project – You can always use the filling you have taken from the bean bag for another DIY project. For example, the sawdust and sand can be used for mulch in your garden, or cat litter. Pebbles can be used for artwork projects. Use your imagination and use your leftovers to your advantage.

2. Donate the filling – If you cannot find any use for the filling, you can always find someone else who does. Ask your friends or family, or if that fails, try asking your local schools or stores to see if they will reuse it in DIY projects.

Can You Recycle Polystyrene?

Typically, bean bags are filled with foam balls made from “expanded polystyrene (EPS) beans”. These tiny balls are only 3 to 4mm round and feel like Styrofoam. So you may be wondering – can this product be recycled?

Well, there is such a thing as EPS beans that are eco-friendly – this being the most effective way for the polystyrene industry to reduce its impact on the environment. The benefits of an eco-friendly polystyrene include:

• It only uses minimal, natural resources during its manufacturing process.
• It contains no traces of chlorofluorocarbons or hydrochlorofluorocarbons, meaning the ozone layer isn’t damaged during the production process.
• It has no health risks associated with it to people, plants or animals during the manufacturing process.

As such, these EPS beans are both eco-friendly and 100% recyclable, however, it may not be an easy process. To find a location near you, visit:

Otherwise, you can try contacting your local council as they may pick them up on your curb collection days.

It is worth mentioning, however, that currently only roughly 12% of the polystyrene products are being recycled. Simply put, it’s up to the manufacturing plant that produces the EPS beans to recycle their unwanted produce, and it’s more affordable for them to make new products rather than reuse old material.

This is where you can assist by finding ways to reuse the materials yourself. Ideas include:

1. Use the filling for another project – The EPS beans are very soft. If you enjoy making things, you can use your old bean bag filling as a stuffing for new pillows or toys. EPS beans also have great insulating qualities, and so if you use them in combination with concrete, they can create a good-looking, stone-like surface for projects such as garden statues or concrete counter tops.

2. Utilise the filling in your garden – As the EPS beans are lightweight, you can place some of them in the bottom of a large pot plant, before placing soil on top. The benefits of this is that it will make the pot plant lighter and easier to move, and less soil will be required so there will be less expense. There is no need for concern – the beans will do no damage to any plants. My only recommendation is to not use the filling in an open garden, as things could get very messy.

3. Use the filling instead of foam packing – Polystyrene has long been used a packaging material, the most common being packing peanuts (also known as foam peanuts, foam popcorn or packing noodles). EPS beans can be used as a packaging material as it has the ability to prevent product damage whilst moving and protect fragile objects.


A typical bean bag filling is a tiny foam ball made from what is known as “expanded polystyrene beans”. Although this material is recyclable, it isn’t always an easy process.

If you are concerned about your impact on the environment, you can try filling your bean bag with more eco-friendly materials, such as cedar shavings, beans, rice, sawdust, buckwheat hulls, hay, sand or small pebbles. Unfortunately, even this material will not last forever, and after several years it will need replacing.

This is when you can follow one of our methods of reusing or recycling the product, such as using it in another DIY project around your home or donating it to someone else in need.

For other examples of DIY options to use as bean bag filling, see our article “Where to Buy Bean Bag Filling” (PLEASE LINK TO ARTICLE). In the meantime, get creative and enjoy filling your bean bag and reducing your carbon footprint.


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