EPS, derived from the addition polymerization of phenyl ethane (styrene monomer), is produced in white beads consisting of a number of closed cells, solidly supported and heat-sealed tangentially to each other, which contain still air occluded inside (Tsivintzelis et al., 2007). PS foam is produced by treating crystalline PS with a blowing agent, typically a hydrocarbon or carbon dioxide, to produce a cellular structure in the material, which reduces the brittleness, making it an excellent cushioning and insulating material. Its use in food and electronics packaging, airplane and automotive parts, and sporting equipment (among other applications), has increased in the last few years due to its advantages of being lightweight, easy to form, acoustic and thermally insulating, inexpensive to produce, cushioning, dimensionally stable, and heat and moisture resistant (Castro et al. 2017).
In Australia, the expandable polystyrene manufacturing industry produces and markets long life-cycle products, such as geo-blocks, cornices, insulation systems for construction, and refrigerators, as well as short life-cycle products, such as multipurpose boxes and packaging systems for the transport of fragile goods and foods, to name a few.
According to Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA), the national industry body for all manufacturers and distributors of EPS products across Australia, an estimated 71,000 tonnes of EPS is consumed annually, growing at a rate of 5% per annum. This consists of:
– 47,000 tonnes, which is domestically manufactured from imported resins.
Of this, 70% is used in the built environment, in long-term use such as waffle pods used in housing construction and engineering/manufacturing components (Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, MWRRG, 2018). Approximately 30% of this is used for packaging, typically single-use or short-term packaging that can be recycled after use. Of the 30%, approximately half is exported as fresh food packaging;
– 24,000 tonnes imported as the packaging with products;
– 3,000 tonnes, which is the estimated amount of EPS reprocessed and used locally.
Find Polystyrene Project Report here