When I first started making my Pocket Carnival softies I knew I didn’t want to use polyfill, but was pretty bamboozled by all the alternatives. Polyfill is so easily available, pretty much every craft & fabric store sells it, but it’s not a great product. Polyfill (polyester stuffing) is a petrochemical based polymer plastic product. Petroleum is a non-renewable resource, and polyfill is not biodegradable.
There are so many alternatives to polyfill, it’s just finding them that can be tricky. I’ve put together a list of some plant based stuffing I’ve come across, feel free to leave comments with more!
Corn fiber - this is what I currently use to stuff my softies. It’s 100% corn derived, has very low flammability and is non-allergenic. Corn is increasingly being used as a biodegradable alternative to petroleum based plastic in everything from tableware & pens to cellophane packaging. It does however have similar flaws to bamboo fiber – turning raw corn into corn fiber requires chemical processing – it also uses a lot of energy as there’s no ‘natural’ way to do it. Corn fiber stays fluffy & light when it’s used as stuffing, similar to polyfill.
Buy it: Innergreen.com.au
Kapok pod – image via gliving.com
Kapok - I admit, until I started researching toy stuffings to write this post, I’d never heard of kapok. Kapok (also called ceiba tree) is native to parts of Central & South America, and parts of Africa. It’s now also grown commercially in parts of South-East Asia. The kapok fiber comes from the plants seed pods (the actual seeds are used to produce oil!) Kapok is light and tends not to compact.
More info: Wikipedia. Buy it: Kapok.com.au (AU, fairly traded).
Cotton fiber - cotton grows into a cute & fluffy little puffball, and cotton fiber used for stuffing is cotton picked from the plant, which has been cleaned and combed. Organic cotton fiber has been grown organically, and is especially popular as a natural toy stuffing. Cotton fiber does compact significantly over time, so it may not be appropriate for certain toys, pillows or things that may easily compact.
Buy it: NearSeaNaturals.com (US, organic), Hollyburton Park (AU), Mohair Bear Making Supplies (UK), Ecoyarns (AU).
Hemp stem – image via wikipedia.com
Hemp fiber – hemp is a fast growing plant which, even when grown conventionally, requires very few herbicides and pesticides. The fiber from the hemp plant grows along the stem of the plant, and when it’s harvested it’s rolled, cleaned and carded. Then a steaming process is used to remove the natural gum from the fiber.
More info: MadeHow.com. Buy it: HempWA.com (AU)
Other stuffing options include agave fiber (also known as sisal), corn husk stuffing (unprocessed and shredded corn husk), animal wool (including sheep & alpaca), jute & flax.
Do you produce something using eco-friendly toy stuffing? Do you sell stuffing? Leave a comment and let me know!