Recent decades have made it clear that the concern for our global environment is on the rise. In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and preserve the delicate balance of our ecosystems, there is an ever increasing demand for responsible and efficient use of our resources. With this goal in mind, let’s take a look at at the impacts that Expanded Polystyrene has on our lives and our environment.
EPS is safe, non-toxic, and chemically inactive.
There are no health risks associated with expanded polystyrene at any stage of it’s production, intended use, or in the the waste stage of it’s life cycle. Since EPS has no nutritional value of any kind, it makes it extremely difficult for mold or fungus to grow. This makes it ideal not only as insulated shipping boxes for food and medicine transportation (even direct contact is completely safe), but also for home insulation. Since EPS is not water-soluble and is completely inert, it is not capable of causing any sort of water contamination. When it comes to direct health concerns facing the people involved directly in the manufacturing, production, storage, use, and disposal of our insulated shipping containers and foam coolers, there are none.
EPS does NOT contain CFC’s or HCFC’s.
Clorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC’s) have been demonstrated to cause significant harm to the Earth’s protective Ozone layer, and have been increasingly regulated since the 1970’s. At no point in the production, use, recycling or disposal process does expanded polystyrene contain or give off ANY CFC’s or HCFC’s.
EPS and “Greenhouse Gasses”
As with any product made from raw materials, EPS does have some impact on the environment. Like all plastics, EPS is made from crude oil, a non-renewable resource that releases carbon dioxide into the environment. However, between fuel, heating, energy, etc., EPS uses only about 0.1% of the oil used by mankind every year. This minimal consumption, however, results in large environmental benefits as well. According to an 1986 APME study, houses and buildings that use EPS as an insulator will save 70 lbs of oil for heating and energy for every 1 pound of oil used to create the EPS. More relevant to our insulated shipping boxes, are the savings achieved through transportation. Because expanded polystyrene is 98% air and extremely light-weight, using it as a packaging material will ultimately result in a significant reduction in fuel consumption when compared to other packaging materials. EPS is a perfect example of using our resources responsibly and efficiently.
There are several options for when an EPS insulated shipping container or other packaging material comes to the end of it’s life. The first is to recycle the material. EPS is 100% recyclable and we encourage all of our customers to recycle their insulated packaging materials. Another alternative is known as energy recovery, and is made possible by EPS’s high calorific value. By clean burning the used EPS at very high temperatures, combustion energy is created that can then be used for heat and electricity. This process is generally emits fewer pollutants than an average campfire, while recycling energy and keeping the EPS out of the landfills. When recycling and energy recovery are not possible, the landfill is the last resort. The good news in this case is that EPS accounts for only about 0.1% of total municipal waste, and it’s chemical properties make it perfectly safe and unable to cause any sort of soil or ground water contamination.
As you can see, the environmental positives of using EPS for home insulating and insulated shipping boxes outweigh the minimal environmental impact. As with any resource, it is always important to reduce, reuse, and recycle. For more information about the relationship between expanded polystyrene and our environment, check out the following sources:
1. Foam Fabricators Inc. – EPS and the Environment
2. EUMEPS.org – Environment
3. EPS.co.uk – EPS and the Environment