Is Polystyrene Environmentally Friendly?
11th July 2017

Is polystyrene environmentally friendly?

Despite what you may have heard, expanded polystyrene (EPS) is environmentally friendly.

Made from 98% air, no toxic substances are used in the manufacture of EPS and it is 100% recyclable. Further evidence of its green credentials can be seen as we follow the lifecycle of expanded polystyrene:

 

Is the manufacture of Expanded Polystyrene harmful?

 

EPS manufacture

 

Products derived from plastics, and those especially from oil, tend to be seen as environmentally unfriendly. Polystyrene is also slow to biodegrade which adds to its poor reputation among environmentalists.

Polystyrene is formed when styrene meets with pentane and is made from a rigid cellular plastic containing an expansion agent.  Styrene has at times been labelled as a “known carcinogen”, however extensive research has found that unless the exposure is extremely high, styrene will not cause any adverse health effects. Similarly, pentane is not considered to be a substance that is hazardous to health.

Pentane is the expansion agent used to expand the granules into the final cellular structure. Unlike chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), pentane does not contain chlorine and so does not harm the ozone layer when it is released when EPS is made and is only found in 0-0.2% of the man-made emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

There is little pollution during the manufacturing process. The main source of energy comes from steam and the water consumption is very low as the water is recycled many times. No waste is generated as any cut-offs or rejects are re-used. Once the process has been completed, expanded polystyrene has just 2% polystyrene cellular matrix; the remaining 98% of the final product is air.

 

Disposing of EPS

Expanded polystyrene is generally non-biodegradable, often seen as a negative factor environmentally, but there are also benefits as it cannot contaminate the air or water with gases.

Polystyrene is however easily recycled. Currently, there are not facilities for this on a worldwide scale, which again contributes to the negative connotations of EPS, however, expanded polystyrene makes up only 0.1% of municipal solid waste.

Molygran ensures 100% of our polystyrene scrap and cut-offs are recycled. We compact the material and these recycled polystyrene briquettes are then used to form new products.

eps briquettes

 

EPS and the Environment Conclusion

 

  1.      As a plastic, expanded polystyrene is made up of 98% air, making it an efficient use of natural resources.
  2.      Pentane does not contain CFC’s or HCFC’s, therefore, does not damage the ozone layer during manufacturing.
  3.      With steam as the main source of energy during manufacturing, the waste during this is minimal.
  4.      Only 0.1% of municipal solid waste is expanded polystyrene.
  5.      Expanded polystyrene is 100% recyclable.

 

References.
Some information has been sourced from “Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and the Environment.”

To view the full document, http://www.eps.co.uk/pdfs/eps_and_the_environment.pdf

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