Expanded Polystyrene, i.e., EPS, is a rigid, closed-cell, thermoplastic foam material made from solid polystyrene, polymerized from styrene monomer, and includes an expansion gas (pentane) dissolved within the polystyrene bead.
EPS beads are made of polystyrene and have small amounts of gas inside them. The gas expands and forms closed cells when heat is applied in steam. These expanded cells take up about 40 times the volume of the original bead. Using heat to a mold allows large EPS blocks to be molded into specific shapes.
The commercial development of polystyrene began in Germany in 1929, with US firm Dow Chemical Co. beginning production around 1935.
Polystyrene foam was used extensively in Germany and the USA during the Second World War. However, it was not widely introduced until 1954, when Dow Chemical Co. began marketing it under the brand name “Styrofoam.”
Dow scientist Ray McIntire invented ‘Styrofoam’ while trying to create a new rubber by combining styrene and isobutylene. Though it was an accident, he made a foam that is 30 times lighter and comparatively more flexible than polystyrene.
EPS can be molded in a spectrum of densities from as low as 12kg/m3 up to 50kg/m3, with the resultant properties, such as compressive strength, defined by the manufactured density.
Expanded Polystyrene is typically water resistant, challenging, and gives very high impact resistance. The air-filled structure has long-term stable thermal conductivity, is non-toxic, and is chemically inert.
Due to its plastic nature, Fungi and bacteria cannot grow on EPS due to their properties.
EPS is made of 98% air and is one of the lightest packaging materials available. It adds little weight to packaging, reducing transport costs and fuel emissions.
It is also beneficial because it can be marked with specific content like company logos. Labeling can also be attached directly to the packaging.
Polystyrene foam is an ideal packaging for many applications because it is rigid and has outstanding impact resistance and shock absorbency. It protects all electrical components, from mobile phones to fridge freezers.
EPS has a lower carbon footprint than many other packaging materials today, making it a more sustainable option. However, we still need to find an alternative to styrofoam.
How Does Styrofoam Affect the Environment?
Styrofoam is made from petroleum products, so it is not environmentally friendly. Styrofoam can take centuries to decompose, releasing toxins into the environment during that time. In addition, Styrofoam is often litter, which can harm animals if they ingest it. Some alternatives to Styrofoam are more environmentally friendly, such as foam peanuts, biodegradable styrofoam, and eco-friendly styrofoam.
#1 Biodegradable Peanuts Starch
What are biodegradable peanuts made of?
Biodegradable packing peanuts are made from natural, non-toxic corn starch or wheat sources. It can add packing material to compost piles. While they are non-toxic or safe if accidentally eaten, the nutritional value has been removed from these items’ starch.
Before the development of biodegradable peanuts, styrofoam peanuts were available. It was developed and patented by Tektronix Inc. and made commercially available Circa 1965 by Dow Chemical. First made from 100% virgin polystyrene resin, peanuts made from 100% recycled polystyrene have been commercially feasible since the mid-90s.
The usage is the same as bubble wrap to fill the void in the container or boxes and be the best sustainable alternative to bubble wrap. Many companies give the feasibility open to the consumers, features such as
- The packing peanuts can decompose in water, leaving no toxic waste, and also, it is FDA compliant.
- There is Static-free organic starch.
- It dispenses and vacuums like traditional peanuts.
Biodegradable packing peanuts are made from natural, non-toxic sources, such as wheat and corn starch. It is dissolved in water and thrown into compost piles after a single use. Also, biodegradable foam peanuts do not have an electrostatic charge, meaning they will not stick to clothes.
#2 Corrugated bubble
Corrugated Bubbles may be a very eco-friendly option for voids fillers and a substitute for bubble wrap. Many people are always on the hunt for greener options and ways to reduce our tread upon the earth. This filler describes the delight of bringing this fantastic product to the marketplace: thrilled beyond belief to share with you EcoEnclose’s green alternative to bubble wrap and foam peanuts! (earlier version – styrofoam)
Recycled Corrugated Bubble’s unique characteristics comprise 100% recycled cardboard made utterly from post-consumer and post-industrial waste. It allows you the option to purchase a Corrugated Bubble made to your exact specifications. Even further, Corrugated Bubble is wholly recyclable & naturally biodegradable.
It’s upcycled recycled!
#3 Bamboo Molded Pulp
Bamboo packaging helps reduce environmental impacts and promotes a healthier planet. Bamboo pulp is just like paper pulp.
This molded pulp comprises the Moso bamboo, Phyllostachys pubescens, and sinocalamus affinisetc, with the sulfate digestion and soda processes.
There is also tender bamboo green and lime pickled into half-clinker—fiber form and length between wood and grass fiber. Easy sizing, delicate and soft bamboo pulp for medium fiber length pulp. The pulp thickness is loose, the tear is high, and the breaking and tensile strength are low—high mechanical strength.
Paper comprises bamboo pulp, bleached for offset/stamp printing paper, handwritten paper and other advanced paper, unbleached paper for wrapping paper, etc.
Bamboo pulp paper is made using bamboo pulp alone or with wood pulp and straw pulp in a reasonable proportion through pulping, rinsing, and other paper-making processes.
#4 Recycled Indented Kraft Paper Roll
Besides adding to your product’s aesthetic presentation, the indentations of Indented Kraft Paper are designed to provide a hint of cushioning. Wrap your products in Indented Kraft Paper to protect them against rubbing and scratches in transport. EcoEnclose 100% Recycled Indented Kraft Paper is made entirely from post-consumer & post-industrial content and is recyclable and naturally biodegradable. The 60# paper weight is thick and durable, but the indentations allow this paper to maintain its flexibility to perfectly molding itself around your product.
#5 Starch Foam Sheets
It is a Flexible sheet that wraps around the corners and curves of fragile products as per their shape.
The foam sheet is Static-free. The best part is the property, i.e.,
it can Biodegrade foam decomposes in water, leaving no waste and the best alternatives to styrofoam.
#6 Crinkle Paper
It is an Attractive filler (bubble wrap alternative) for the void for baskets and gift boxes. It is firmly nestled with interlocking crinkle-cut paper and a convenient 10 lb. carton UPSable.
Other options available in Paper and Metallic Blends – Add an extra festive touch such as Red, French Vanilla, Forest Green, Black, Lime, Kraft, White, Ivory, and Navy Blue.
See the complete line of Gift Boxes.
#7 Paper Air pillows
AirWave Packaging is breaking new ground in environmental protection and delivers a clear statement on sustainability. The air-cushion chain of >85% recycled paper is robust and ecologically advantageous. The compostable sealing layer is ultra-thin and does not negatively influence any recycling aspect. The AirWave PaperWave®-Bio air cushion film has achieved superior environmental benefits.
Easy disposal by the consumer
AirWave PaperWave® has a skinny seal layer made of a starch-based compostable film, which has been confirmed not to affect the paper’s recyclability. The product is 100% recyclable by pulping. The product bears the RESY mark as well as the sorting aid symbol, according to DIN 6120. And it makes it very easy for the consumer to decide on the correct recycling bin at their disposal. The material is compostable and even degrades in the water when mistakenly ended there.
Modern technology enables 100% recycling
With today’s repulping technology, the paper and sealant layer will be separated during recycling. This enables the new AirWave Paper-Wave® air cushion film to be recycled with normal wastepaper or bio-compostable waste.
#8 Mushroom packaging
A well-known biomaterials company, i.e., Evocative and It, produced mushroom packaging utilizing the vegetative part of a mushroom fungus and crop waste to make a bioplastic.
While this might seem funny, large retailers, including Ikea, are counting on using this biodegradable packaging option to substitute polystyrene.
Why? Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, has earlier told The Telegraph that several products are packaged in polystyrene, which is either challenging to recycle or cannot be recycled at all.
Consequently, the group is looking for innovative packaging choices, such as fungi packaging. This packaging, which includes mycelium, will normally decompose within weeks, decreasing waste and increasing recycling.
#9 Geami WrapPak Ex
This is a different packaging concept: a recyclable and biodegradable product that works as a protective cushioning wrap.
The die-cut 3D honeycomb formation constitutes a cushioning pattern. Geami wrap attains in a convenient dispenser box. And also, it is self-contained, disposable, and recyclable: truly retail-ready wrapping.
The Geami WrapPak EX Mini is a convenient dispenser box that extends die-cut kraft paper into a 3D honeycomb construction. Its tiny footprint enables it to be placed on any tabletop or packaging area.
Wrapping is required when packing products need protection against scratching, surface abrasion, and minor handling incidents. WrapPak methods use patented manners to convert environmentally friendly paper into packaging that prevents damage, including difficulties caused by internal consequences when various items are packed together.
Geami WrapPak is a mixture of die-cut kraft paper with tissue interleaf paper. The Geami WrapPak EX Mini expands the die-cut paper to a 3D honeycomb structure giving a unique wrapping product. Collectively locking angled paper cells, items can be wrapped securely without requiring adhesive tape or cutting. The converter can be set at any packing station where individual items require a protective wrap.
There are many alternatives to styrofoam that are better for the environment. When looking for an alternative to styrofoam, consider these factors before deciding.
1) How the alternative will be used. If the alternative will be used for construction or packaging, it is essential to consider how strong and durable it needs to be.
2) The price of the alternative. Styrofoam is often chosen because it is affordable. However, there are some environmentally friendly alternatives that are just as affordable.