As a manufacturer of polystyrene foam packaging, we feel we have a responsibility to inform people – customers or not – about our product. The perception is that our product tends to have a bad reputation in certain aspects; we are here to set the record straight.
First, we need to discuss what our product exactly is and what it’s called. The product we work with on a daily basis is a polystyrene foam; more specifically, EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. EPS is a lightweight, petroleum-based plastic material and used (as many of us have seen) in packaging and shipping items. Most packaged items are fragile or have conditions that need to be met in the shipping process (for example: heat, moisture, protection). However, many times this product is referred to as “Styrofoam” – a registered trademark product of Dow Chemical. The issue with that seemingly simple mix-up is that Styrofoam is the generic term used for disposable foam products like coffee cups or coolers; when in fact, there aren’t any of those ‘types’ products made from the actual Styrofoam brand (an extruded polystyrene foam insulation).
Yet another common misunderstanding with EPS foam is that it’s not recyclable or biodegradable. Actually, if you thought this to be true, you are not alone! EPS foam products are recyclable; our industry is actively developing recycling programs that are both economical and efficient. As for being biodegradable? Contrary to popular belief, biodegradability is not always a positive mark for the environment; when biodegradable waste is put in landfills, it is broken down to form methane gas (in absence of oxygen). Chemically, EPS foam consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen; although it does not biodegrade, it does not produce gases harmful to the environment and has purposes for many items in our daily lives.
The product has a variety of uses and forms such as a packaging material, packing peanuts, take-out food containers, building materials and more. Not only that, but when EPS is recycled, the material can be turned into products such as construction materials, picture frames, clothes hangers, even park benches. Each week we attempt to educate our users in hopes that you, someday, will help us set the record straight.