5 Crazy Facts About Styrofoam

November 5, 2017

These 5 crazy facts about Styrofoam will blow you away. 

First off, this is not the crazy fact, but Styrofoam is a trademarked name by Dow Chemical Company, the real name for Styrofoam is expanded polystyrene foam. So, for the rest of this video, I will be calling it EPS or foam #6. 


EPS is a form of plastic that is made from oil and has been “expanded”.  It is 98% air. That’s a lot of air. That’s like a balloon.


The food service industry is a major user of EPS because it easy and cheap to make containers, cups, and trays with it. EPS is also used by insulation companies because it’s very effective at trapping air. EPS has also been a preferred packaging material for product protection in shipping.

 

Crazy Fact #1: EPS can be EXTREMELY “GREEN”! but only when it is recycled. 


SAY WHAT?!?! NO WAY! YOU’VE got to be JOKING! 


That’s right EPS is a very recyclable and desirable material. Recycling every ton of EPS saves as much as 637 gallons of oil. However, depending on the condition of the EPS it might only be able to be recycled once.  The solution to that would be to just use less EPS or Styrofoam or foam #6. But if you do, recycle it. Ever bit helps. 


4 Quick Recycling Tips:

  1. Coffee and soda cups do not need to be rinsed, but food containers should be wiped out. 

  2. Reuse Foam Packing peanuts or donate them for reuse at mail carrier business. 

  3. Remove labels and tape from foam packaging containers before recycling. 

  4. Make sure the foam does not escape from your recycling container.

EPS Recycling Process:

  • Step 1: Foam products are collected for recycling

  • Step 2: The foam is compacted into dense bricks

  • Step 3: The compacted foam is converted into pellets. 

  • Step 4: The pellets are used to create new plastic products. 

Products from Recycled EPS:

  • Picture frames

  • Interior molding used in many homes and businesses to add an ornamental touch. 

  • Pony Packs used to grow and transport a variety of seeds and plants. 

  • Writing utensils like ballpoint pens. 

  • Rules are common items made from recycled EPS.

  • Insulation foam to maximize home’s energy efficiency. 

  • Foam packaging the protects fragile electronics and other breakables. 
     

 

Crazy Fact #2: EPS uses significantly less energy and water to manufacture than paper alternatives. 


EPS is a two-stage process. First, raw beads are expanded using steam which creates the puffed beads. They are again steamed and molded into a shape. The process is simple and can be very cheap. 

 

Some EPS manufactures such as Insulation Corps of America, have installed solar panels and replaced all lighting at the manufacturing plant with energy efficient fixtures which further reduces their environmental footprint. 


There are many benefits also when manufacture foam if it is paired with recycled foam. It decreases the dependency on virgin resources and conserves them for future generations. It prevents pollution into our air which is generated by using virgin materials. It protects the Earth’s atmosphere by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being pumped into the air when making new products. Win for Earth! 

 

 

Crazy Fact #3: EPS is the most harmful when it is in the landfill or in the environment. It degrades very, very slowly, like 500 to 1000 years. 

 

It also takes up a ton of space because of its puffiness and can fill up the landfill pretty fast, which then calls for more landfill space to be created. Because of its airiness, it also has a tendency to fly away. This can easily liter our beautiful environment and some animals can’t resist it and will eat it. 


EPS is also a common material that is found oceans. Once it starts to break down, the tiny polystyrene components start to sink. So, the styrene pollutant is prevalent throughout the water column and not just at the surface. IT’S EVERYWHERE! 


EPS also contains a chemical called styrene. This one is the kicker. Styrene has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects. 


This is in hot debate right now, but it is believed that the styrene can leach out of EPS containers when in contain with hot foods or drinks. We can then ingest the chemical. So, if you take home food from a restaurant, remove it from the Styrofoam container before heating it up and then wipe it out and recycle the container. And never drink your coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. Especially if you notice your coffee tasting a little funny. It’s probably the plastic chemicals in the foam. You’re welcome. I might have just saved your life.  

 

 

Crazy Fact #4: The Dart Container Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of foam cups and containers, claim that the litter of their foam #6 products is an issue of personal responsibility – Not a product issue. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY! 

 

They believe that the harmful environmental effects of their foam product is not their problem but it is yours. Once you buy or use that foam product, I guess it is completely up to you on where that product ends up.  


They think the only true solution to litter is to change the behavior of those who litter and enforce the laws that prohibit this behavior. So, when something does go wrong, they can blame it all on you. 


Well guess, I think the blame should go both ways. DART should take responsibility for introducing the products to the costumers, and the costumers should take responsibility for everything they buy and own. 


But the companies that put out products should take responsibility for the whole life-cycle of the product. They should make sure the costumer knows how to dispose of that product properly. Some things need more instruction. Got it? Good. Alright, take responsibility for your fluff. If you can’t handle it, don’t use it. 

 

 

Crazy Fact #5: EPS has a very high calorific value, even higher than coal, 
and can be safely burnt within energy recovery units, or incinerators, without giving off toxic or environmentally damaging fumes. The gases that are released are far less than what is emitted into the air by burning wood. 

 

 

End Note:

Try to avoid Styrofoam as much as you can. Even though EPS or foam #6 can be recycled, it is NOT accepted in many places. In most cases, it ends up in the landfill or in the ocean. Chemicals in the EPS can leach out into your hot beverages or food and then affect you. It also can break down into very small microscopic pieces and get into our water supply. Not Good.

 

The amount of Styrofoam used around the world is appalling. If you use it, you are just participating in the problem. Sometimes it is hard not to use it when it is the only thing to use, or if someone hands it to you absentmindedly. It is up to you and me to educated others about EPS. Our actions matter. You matter! Spread the word! 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________

 

References

The Balance: 

https://www.thebalance.com/introduction-to-eps-recycling-2877866

https://www.thebalance.com/expanded-polystyrene-foam-recycling-eps-facts-and-figures-2877914

 

Insulation Corporation of America: 

https://insulationcorp.com/eps/

 

Home for Foam:

http://www.homeforfoam.com/foam-101/steps-recycling-foam-6

http://www.homeforfoam.com/city-governments/recycling-process

http://www.homeforfoam.com/foam-101/six-reasons-recycle-foam-6

 

 

GD Environmental : 

http://www.gd-environmental.co.uk/blog/how-many-times-can-you-recycle/

 

EPS Recycling International: 

http://epsrecycling.org/eps-recycling

 

National Geographic News: 

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plastic-decomposes-oceans-seas.html

 

Dart Container Company: 

https://www.dartcontainer.com/media/3684/m301caed.pdf

 

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families: 

http://saferchemicals.org/2014/05/26/styrene-and-styrofoam-101-2/

 

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