Monday, February 25, 2008

The Composition of Styrofoam

Some of you were curious about what Styrofoam was made from. It is essentially Polystyrene with a blower. Polystyrene is a hard brittle plastic. Most disposable plastic cups are made from Polystyrene.

Styrofoam is made from Benzene, Styrene and Ethylene. Benzene is extracted from coal. It can also be found in gasoline. Benzene is a clear, colorless liquid with a noted "pleasant" smell. Another common name for Benzene is coal tar. It is the most toxic component of Styrofoam. It can be absorbed through your skin or from breathing. On the Hazardous Substance List it is described as a mutagen, a carcinogen, and flammable.

Styrene (Styrene Monomer) is a clear oily liquid with a slight odor. It is "cracked" or extracted from petroleum oil. Styrene is toxic in high levels. It is reactive, flammable, and a mutagen.

Ethylene is a colorless gas that is cooled to become a liquid. It is injected into the Benzene and Styrene. It is called a blower. Ethylene is what makes the Styrofoam a light bubbly plastic. Ethylene encourages plant growth in almost all plants and is generally used as a refrigerant. It is non-toxic, but still flammable.


Andrew said...

paper cups are so much better. down with styrfoam!!

magalabuddy02 said...

Sure, we can use paper cups, but not everyone would agree that it is the most beneficial material for hot drinks.

“Benzene is extracted from coal. It can also be found in gasoline.” The idea that we use something to contain beverages that is also located in gasoline does not sit well with me. Is there any way we can find something less flammable, less toxic and less…well, nauseating?

Finding out that Styrene is "cracked" or extracted from petroleum oil does not really surprise me. People tend to use petroleum oil for many things nowadays. You’d be surprised with all of its uses.

magalabuddy02 said...

Styrofoam will be around for quite a while, so why not encourage people to use other products for the same thing that Styrofoam is being used for. Instead of using Styrofoam for packaging and what not, use newspapers. Crumpled up newspaper works well for packing and is easy to recycle and reuse. If you do need something more styrofoam-like, there are substitutes made out of corn starch that are more earth-friendly.

"It's not that Styrofoam can't be recycled, it's just more difficult than other plastics," said Plant Manager Zion Dunn.

This is absolutely true. Styrofoam becomes a problem without people noticing it. Instead of trying to figure out how to recycle this, people simply deal. It would cost too much money to actually develop a useful solution. In due time, once Styrofoam is more than spread out everywhere, it will be too late to consider the option of recycling it.

Feel free to read up on the article, “Styrofoam waste: Not just peanuts” at

Styrofoam said...

Styrofoam is a really nice material. People just have to learn how to properly use and handle them.

rona said...

i'm a highschool student, trying to find out what plant and/or part of a plant could we use as a substitute to the main components of the styrofoam... in short, an investigatory project. if you could help me, please do.. cause its due this upcoming tuesday... tnx