Polystyrene (PS) foam service items such as food takeout containers, foam cups, and shipping materials provide convenience for consumers, but these items also allow organizations and business to take advantage of their value from a financial and environmental perspective as well. The foodservice sector and packaging industry prefer using polystyrene foam items to alternatives because foam insulates better, costs less, and can be recycled. Polystyrene foam is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company.
Foam provides the best economic value to users because it costs less than its alternatives, such as paper products, and is made up of a lightweight composite that keeps shipping costs low. Also, an innovative technology allows manufacturers to densify (compress) foam in order to further aid in the cost requirements of shipping. Consider this: when one semi-truck trailer is filled to capacity with loose foam, it can accommodate just over half a ton; however, if the same truck is loaded with densified foam, it can haul about 20 tons of the material. Compressing the PS foam allows one semi-trailer truck to take the place of 35 others carrying non-compressed foam, which keeps the cost of transportation low.
Because of this shipping advantage, as well as the fact that it is can be recycled, foam is also the best foodservice and packaging option from an environmental perspective. The reduction in the amount of shipping means that the material requires less energy to transport, saves resources, and reduces overall air emissions compared with alternatives. Also, according to an industry study conducted by the American Chemistry Council, polystyrene foam products require much less water and energy to be produced than paper or corn-based alternatives.
With PS foam in such high demand, estimates suggest that the global market for post-consumer polystyrene foam is now nearly 120,000 tons annually. By providing consumer convenience, cost-saving features, and minimal environmental impact, it’s no wonder why foam is the preferred choice for foodservice and packaging materials.