What is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)?

What is polystyrene?
What is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)?
Does EPS foam insulation or packaging materials contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or HCFCs?
What are CFCs?  And what is their impact on the ozone?
Are EPS foam products recyclable?
Is EPS Biodegradable?
What are the benefits of EPS thermal insulation and foam packaging?
Does EPS give off toxic emissions when incinerated?
Is EPS considered toxic and does it contain formaldehyde?
Is molded expanded polystyrene (EPS) the same as extruded polystyrene (XPS)?

1. What is polystyrene?

We benefit daily from products manufactured from polystyrene plastic, including thermal insulation for construction applications and cushion packaging for industrial and consumer applications.

There are two common types of polystyrene foam: extruded polystyrene (popularly known by its Dow trademark, Styrofoam®) and expanded polystyrene (EPS). Most food service applications, including meat trays, egg cartons, hamburger clam shells, foam plates and trays, are extruded polystyrene. However, the common coffee cup is expanded polystyrene as is almost all industrial cushion packaging. This is the cellular white molded foam that is used to package televisions, stereos, computers, delicate electronic equipment and other fragile industrial and consumer products.

Both expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene are used extensively as thermal insulation in industrial, commercial and residential construction.

2. What is expanded polystyrene (EPS)?

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a thermoplastic, closed-cell, lightweight, rigid-foam plastic. The low thermal conductivity, high compressive, strength and excellent shock absorption properties of EPS make it an ideal material for the application demand for which it is used.

ACH Foam Technologies uses the latest technology and equipment to manufacture a variety of standardized and customized products from its EPS.

3. Does EPS Foam insulation and packaging materials contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or HCFCs?

No. EPS foam products have never been manufactured with CFCs. The expansion agent for EPS material is pentane.

4. What are CFCS?  What is their impact on the ozone? 

Fully halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a family of chemical compounds used mainly as refrigerants for freezers, refrigerators and air-conditioning units and as industrial cleansing solvents primarily in the high-tech industry. CFCs are also used as an expansion agent in the manufacture of isocyanurate thermal insulation, some extruded polystyrene foam used for thermal insulation, and food service containers.

When released into the atmosphere, CFCs rise to the stratosphere where they break down and release chlorine. The chlorine then acts to reduce the stratospheric ozone layer, causing an increase in the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth.

5.  Are EPS foam products recyclable?

Yes. Indeed, all plastics can be reused. Recycling is a way to reduce the amount of trash that needs disposal and to conserve valuable raw materials. The plastics industry is working actively to develop recycling programs that are both efficient and economical.

6. Is EPS Biodegradable?

Although EPS foam does not biodegrade, it is benign to the environment and provides a stable fill material similar to earth, rock or concrete. This allows for safe landfill reclamation for parks, schools, ball fields, golf courses and other public or greenbelt utilization. Our goal should be to limit materials from getting to the landfill through source reduction, aggressive recycling and other environmentally sound waste-management programs. 

ACH Foam Technologies does offer a biodegradable loose fill packaging peanut product.

7. What are the benefits of EPS thermal insulation and foam packaging products?

EPS foam products – whether used for insulation or packaging – are lightweight, versatile, sanitary, energy efficient and most of all cost effective. The manufacture of EPS foam uses less energy than that used in the manufacture of paper-based alternatives. According to The Midwest Research Institute study on special packaging applications, the total energy requirements to make plastic containers (including both processing and materials energy) were lower than or equal to the energy consumed to make competing materials.

Furthermore, EPS's physical properties allow for almost universal application. Information regarding the suitability of EPS for a specific application is available upon request.

8.  Does EPS foam give off toxic emissions when incinerated?

No. EPS foam's chemical makeup consists of carbon and hydrogen. When completely combusted, it gives off water vapor, carbon dioxide and trace levels of ash – the same as paper.

9.  Is EPS considered toxic & does it contain formaldehyde?

The simple chemical makeup of EPS is carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – elements found in wood and other organic materials.  EPS foam products do NOT contain formaldehyde.

10. Is molded expanded polystyrene (EPS) the same as molded extruded polystyrene (XPS)?

No. Extruded polystyrene (often in colors such as pink, blue or green) uses a different blowing agent and a different manufacturing process. White molded EPS, unlike extruded, is available in many different densities and thicknesses. EPS insulation systems dramatically reduce energy consumption and its resultant pollution.