In an ongoing partnership to showcase the benefits of using polystyrene, we are excited to further promote not only the article and American Chemical Society, but the findings associated. Please take the time to read the following:
A newly released study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), the world’s leading ocean research organization, shows that sunlight can naturally degrade polystyrene in just decades or centuries.
This research thoroughly debunks the common argument that PS “lasts forever” in the environment. Sunlight Converts Polystyrene to Carbon Dioxide and Dissolved Organic Carbon was published today in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
And there’s more good news from the study – sunlight doesn’t cause PS to just physically break down, it also causes it to degrade chemically.
Using a sun-simulating lamp the WHOI scientists found they could chemically degrade polystyrene slowly, releasing organic carbon and trace amounts of carbon dioxide. The scientists believe for latitudes from the equator to the southern border of Canada (0° to 50° N), this degradation process would take decades. For complete oxidation to carbon dioxide, it would take centuries.
Past studies have focused on the role microbes play in degrading PS, rather than considering other factors like sunlight. While microbes would eat plastic, they can be selective, and the complex and bulky structure of PS makes it unappealing for bacteria. WHOI lead research Dr. Collin Ward says, “Although the ring-based backbone of polystyrene makes it a difficult target for microbes, it’s the perfect shape and size to catch certain frequencies of sunlight.”
The study also found that additives (such as color) play a major role in breakdown as they absorb different frequencies of sunlight, which influences how fast the PS breaks down.
EPS-IA will develop messaging around this exciting new study. Stay tuned for updates.
For more information contact us at
Plymouth Foam wants you to know the facts about Airpop® EPS so that you can sort through misconstrued information; looking at the environmental impact of any material requires considering all the facts. We need to look at how the material functions, what are the total energy costs to produce, and how the material is recycled.
Some people claim EPS is bad for the environment but they have not taken these facts into account:
- EPS is recyclable and recycling rates are climbing especially post-consumer recycling. Chemical recycling increases the ability to recycle contaminated EPS waste. There are more paper cups than EPS foam in landfills.
- Alternatives require more energy to produce, creating an even greater environmental impact. The American Chemistry Council sponsored a study showing the environmental cost of alternatives is 4 to 5 times more.
- EPS alternatives don’t function the same. You’ll see consumers “double-cup” hot coffee in paper cups or use an extra cardboard coffee sleeve. Businesses pay higher transportation costs for heavier packing materials that lack the same cushioning and impact resistance resulting in potential damage to the finished product. Perishable food would be wasted if not for the insulating benefits of EPS.
Contact Plymouth Foam when you need a collaborative solution for your delicate packaging and temperature sensitive storage solutions.
Contact GoPlymouthFoam for Construction questions or solutions.
Reprint from Plymouth Foam - July
Recyclable and biodegradable are two terms that can get confused. We’re here to help understand the difference.
Let’s start off with the term: recyclable. The definition from dictionary.com states…
Recyclable: to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse.
YES! Our material EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) is made of 98% air and is an inert material without harmful chemicals that off-gas or leach during its use of disposal. EPS is 100% recyclable. Many EPS users do not know of it’s recycling capability.
By The Numbers (2016 Domestic EPS Recycling):
The EPS Industry Alliance shares Airpop® (EPS) packaging recycling stats.
- 63 million pounds Post-Consumer
- 55.7 million pounds Post-Industrial
Biodegradable: capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.
Biodegradable is a different concept. EPS breaks down slowly making it a non-viable biodegradable product. Common substances that are biodegradable include food scraps, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste.
Although EPS is not biodegradable, it can be recycled and reused. We are a proud industry supporter of this initiative in conjunction with our own sustainability efforts.
See our Video by clicking here!
I noticed this year, Home Depot is making a big deal out of trying to reduce EPS (“styrofoam”) out of some of they're packaging and just substituting other plastics. They think it is great, I think it is foolish. That new packaged Home Depot Christmas gift that doesn’t have EPS but cardboard and plastic, where does that packaging end up? After Christmas this year, look though people’s trash and you will discover that much of the paper and cardboard that can be recycled is not. Why? What did Home Depot gain?
Let’s talk about EPS for just a minute. There are recycling centers all over the US just for EPS. In fact, there are over 200 EPS collection centers and growing. Last year in 2016, over 118 million pound of EPS was recycled. That is a ton considering EPS doesn’t weigh that much as 98% of the product is air.
They say, Americans are lazy and we need stuff that is biodegradable to put in the landfills. They don’t think we are smart enough or motivated enough to recycle EPS. I think Americans are smart enough but we certainly could do a better job of educating the public on all these EPS recycling centers. We could do a better job of letting the public know that EPS is a resource rather than garbage. That EPS is 100% recyclable just like aluminum cans. We need to push our local municipalities to add Number 6 to our recycle bins. (Click on the Video below, it is really eye-opening.)
So this Holiday Season, I am adding to the phrase “Peace on Earth” to Peace on Earth and please recycle your EPS.
Learn More Plymouth Foam Recycle Center
Nation Wide Drop Off Centers
Video Recycling EPS
What if you're a contractor and you want to recycle your foam? Plymouth Foam has a program to help with larger quantities of EPS Foam. (Learn More - How to) Plymouth Foam encourages recycling of construction EPS. "The biggest challenge is educating contractors on how to recycle foam."
Plymouth Foam is working on educating the public that EPS is "the Safe Insulation" and is 100% recyclable. In fact, in 2013 over 34% of post consumer EPS was recycled, that is over 127 million pounds. (Learn More about Why EPS is so Green)
Plymouth Foam Recycle Center
1800 Sunset Dr.
Plymouth, WI 53073