What is Used as a Filler?
Though many common recycled materials can be used to fill bean bags, typically, there are two types of fillers used in bean bag chairs. Most manufacturers will use the traditional Polystyrene "beans," which is also knows as Styrofoam. Polystyrene filler allows the bean bags to be very light, less expensive and will offer more support than foam fillers. The way the beans are made and the material used to make the beans, allow for compression resistance and have an airy feel. Shredded memory foam is also used as a filler in some bean bags. This type of memory foam filler is a newer option. Some bean bag chairs are also filled with rice or dried beans. Though these are not the modern fillers, the bean bag chairs will be cheaper with these types of fillers and they are also environmentally friendly.
Plastics combined with certain chemicals will produce EPS which is an expandable resin. When the EPS gets heated, the resin will expand. Only a certain amount of heat can be applied or the beads will form to hard, in turn making it useless for bean bag filler. When using pre-consumer recycled polystyrene beads, they are grounded up packing materials and will come in two forms. Some may look similar to smashed polystyrene beads and others get grounded up and sorted out for uniform size beads. Some think different size polystyrene beads allows more comfort in the bean bag chair, while others think uniform beads compress less and is a better option. Personal preference will ultimately determine your final decision. Polystyrene is not biodegradable and the material itself is not recyclable. Though, as stated above, you can reuse the beans by grounding them up. There are also Virgin Polystyrene beans, which are made from non-recycled plastics.
The more modern bean bag chairs will come with a foam filler that is high in density. Some prefer this filler over polystyrene because the foam forms to your body more and bounces back to its original shape when you get up. Generally, the high density foam bean bags will come in more structured shapes simply because of the shape of the foam. This high density foam can also be compacted which can save you money on shipping.
A rice or dried bean filler for bean bags may be cheaper, but they will also attract moths and other types of insects. Also, if anybody in your household is allergic to soybeans, a dried bean filler may not be the best idea.
When choosing your bean bag chair, look into the details. The manufacturer will tell you what the filler is and why they have decided to use that particular type. Think about what you will be using your bean bag chair for and then you can make the best decision for yourself. It is also important to remember that some bean bag fillers are not safe for children or pets. Keep this in mind when deciding on a bean bag chair and the type you will buy.