14 September 2019 | Insights

Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Polystyrene

1. Polystyrene is 98% Air

Air is one of the most naturally abundant elements on the planet, so the fact that Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is 98% air illustrates just how resource-efficient it actually is. To this day EPS remains the lightest packaging material around, although its applications far exceed just packaging as it is utilised for temperature control, weight saving and impact protection.

Expanded Polystyrene has an array of exceptional properties including:

  • Durability
  • Versatility
  • Shock Absorption
  • Insulation

2. Polystyrene is 100% Recyclable!

Not a lot of people know that EPS is 100% recyclable, probably due to the fact that local polystyrene recycling is still not available at your local tip or via council waste collection. However, EPS has been recycled in the UK for over 20 years now and awareness is on the increase.

EPS can be recycled in a number of easy ways:

  • Regrinding – EPS is ground down by a rotating cutter
  • Compacted and sold on to be manufactured into something new
  • Remoulded into new polystyrene products
  • Recycled into new products including:
    • Hardwood replacements for garden furniture
    • Slate replacement for roof tiles
    • Concrete replacement for building materials
    • New plastic items such as coat hangers or CD cases.

3. Versatile and Lightweight

EPS Polystyrene is a very common type of plastic used for numerous different industries. It is a vinyl polymer and extremely useful because engineers can adapt and form it to work for so many varying applications. For example, heating & ventilation, construction, military and automotive markets.

It is used widely within the automotive industry where lightweight component parts help to increase fuel efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and thereby lower carbon emissions. This is not only beneficial to the environment but also for passenger safety as expanded foam also absorbs impact energy.

Versatile in both application and processing, the end result can be enhanced by using:

  • Different colours
  • Surface finishes
  • Insert moulding
  • Dual density moulding

4. Moulding Options (colour, inserts, textures, dual densities)

EPS polystyrene has a wide variety of properties, however in packaging only two are utilised; cushioning and impact absorption. EPS is more than just packaging; depending on its end use there are infinite options for moulded parts with regards to material density, inserts, working hinges, skins, textures and colours.

Moulded parts are designed and customised to meet each individual customer requirements to gain optimal performance under specific conditions with regards to load, repeat performance, temperature and aesthetics.

To enhance strength and reduce assembly times, wire frames, metal brackets and plastic fixings can be insert-moulded saving the client both time and money.

If different areas of a moulding are subject to differing amounts of stress, these parts can be moulded in a higher and more durable density than the rest of the moulding; this is called dual-density moulding.

By exploiting the latest engineering techniques any moulding can be given a more aesthetically appealing surface or skin. Tooling can be meshed, etched or acid dipped to create the desired surface texture which masks the natural beaded effect. Vinyl’s, skins or felt-like flocking can also be adhered to the component parts during the moulding process adding further strength, impact resistance and a greater visual and tactile appeal.

5. Polystyrene is one of the best insulators on the planet

When seeking cost efficient methods of insulation, EPS should be top of the list. When compared against other materials such as wood, plastics, wool and cardboard, expanded polystyrene is a far superior insulating material.

EPS is an excellent insulator thanks to its composition of 98% air. Millions of tiny little voids trap the air which stop it from circulating and inhibit the transfer of hot and cold temperatures in the process.EPS has a good thermal resistance, its closed-cell nature and the fact that air is a bad conductor of heat makes the material incredibly effective at preventing heat transfer.

The insulation properties of EPS make it a particularly viable material for:

  • Fish Boxes and Temperature Controlled Packaging
  • Cavity Wall Insulation in Board and Bead form
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) Components
  • Construction – Insulated Concrete Forms

Engineered Foam Products is one of the most innovative expanded foam manufacturing companies in the UK who are able to partner with customers to develop optimised foam solutions to specified design criteria.

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