Why Foam?

April 14, 2012

Dart Container Corporation has been producing foam products since an initial experimentation with expandable polystyrene in the late 1950s led to the discovery of the high quality insulated foam products that we know and use today. The invention of foam cups brought with it many benefits, including superior insulation, strength, and durability. Foam cups are the most efficient way to keep your drinks warm in the winter and cold in the summer.

Have you ever gone to a football game in the middle of November covered up from head-to-toe with big socks, jackets, scarves, and blankets while holding a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate in a warm insulated foam cup, sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘Styrofoam®’, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company? Or what about sitting on the beach – have you ever spent the day on the beach with a few beach towels, a cooler full of ice, and a stack of Styrofoam ™ cups to keep your favorite beverages cold?*

Foam is also a valuable industrial product. In fact, most hospitals use foam products because foam products minimize exposure to bacteria and other foodborne pathogens.

Fast food restaurants, households with young children, hospitals, and school cafeterias look for disposable foodservices products that are clean. Polystyrene products (foam) is convenient, insulated, and is highly sanitized.

Foam is made from polystyrene, which is made from styrene, a petroleum by-product, through a chemical reaction process known as polymerization. Styrene is a clear, colorless liquid that is a component of materials used to make thousands of everyday products for home, school, work, and play. Styrene is used in everything from food containers and packaging materials to cars, boats, computers, medical, health, and safety equipment, and even video games.

In order to make foam cups and other polystyrene-based products a manufacturing process is put into place. Polystyrene foam containers for food are not manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or any other ozone-depleting chemicals; CFCs have not been used since 1980. In fact, Dart has never used CFCs in manufacturing molded foam cups.[i]

Polystyrene foam products are about 90% air and only 10% polystyrene.

When polystyrene foam packaging is produced, a “blowing” or “expansion” agent is used in the process.


[i] Alexander, Judd H. In Defense of Garbage. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993. 55.

*Styrofoam ® is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company