Expanded polystyrene or EPS made up of 98% air is actually one of the few eco-friendly materials that man has successfully discovered. EPS Polystyrene contains no harmful or toxic substances and is a hundred percent recyclable material. The term ‘polystyrene’ denotes a plastic made from Styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon. Eduard Simon invented this phenomenal material in 1839.
The chemical composition of EPS is (C8H8) n. The material contains Styrene, water, ethylene, benzene, aluminum chloride, and pentane. There are two forms of EPS: the solid form and the other is the foam form.
Some of the usages of EPS polystyrene include:
• Packaging materials, including food packaging.
• Hot-drink foam cups. and vending cups
• Take-away boxes
• Egg cartons
• Packaging for meat and fish
• Poultry packaging materials
• Carrying-out meal containers
• Packaging for sensitive electronic goods.
• Used in designing work
• In the construction industry, as insulation panels
Formation of polystyrene
Polystyrene is formed when Styrene is mixed with pentane. While many people believe that Styrene is carcinogenic, research in this field has shown that Styrene is harmful only when exposed to higher concentrates and not otherwise. Pentane, the expansion agent, on the other hand, which is not hazardous to health. Unlike CFCs, Pantene has no chlorine content, and that is why it does not harm the ozone layer of the atmosphere when recyclable expanded polystyrene is made.
During the manufacturing process of polystyrene, the water is consumed in steam and is relatively low. It is because the water used during the process is recycled multiple times. Additionally, no waste gets generated during the process because manufacturers recycle most raw materials or reject semi-products. 98% is air in the final product, and only 2% is the polystyrene cellular matrix. Therefore, it can be conveniently said that the material produced is eco-friendly.
EPS polystyrene is non-biodegradable. It is one factor that many environmentalists hold against polystyrene. However, there are distinct advantages of using this styrene-based product.
1. Expanded polystyrene does not react with water or air to produce harmful gases as it is non-biodegradable. Therefore, no carbon emissions and no role-playing in the greenhouse gas effect.
2. The ideal way to dispose of expanded Polystrene is to recycle it. Many manufacturing units throughout the world and the UAE offer specialized services wherein the scrap and cut-offs are sent to recycling units. It is important to note that expanded polystyrene is one hundred percent recyclable, unlike plastic.
3. The process of recycling involves exclusive steps:
• Sorting the material by polymer type,
• Compact washing and drying,
• Feeding the EPS in the compactor for size reduction. The reduced size is anywhere between 40% to 95%
• In the next step, the EPS is changed to the molten form by melting.
• Next, the molten form is transformed into pellets. These pellets or recycled polystyrene are then sold.
• Finally, the pellets are made into products, and thus the process of recycling polystyrene is completed.
4. Fact check – EPS Polystyrene is the highest recycled plastic in the United Kingdom. Polystyrene products that can be safely recycled include packaging materials like fish-box packaging, food trays, insulation materials like the floor, roof, wall insulations, and seating and insulation in cars.
It is important to note that presently, polystyrene cannot be recycled using standard methods and kerbside collection. Users need to understand that they cannot be placed in the dustbin because if you do so, it is invariably going to land up in the seas and the oceans around UAE and also fill up landfills. Therefore, users need first to find out how and where they can dispose of the polystyrene materials to be recycled sustainably.
One of the most used fields of expanded polystyrene is in packaging, especially food packaging. As already seen, EPS makes use of natural resources in the best possible manner – it is mostly composed of the air; water in the form of steam is minimally used, and there are no poisonous gases emitted while it is produced.
The material is also inert. It effectually means that EPS does not chemically react most of the time.
While many would like to think that EPS Polystyrene is harmful and not eco-friendly, the truth is that the material composed of 98% air is an efficient use of natural resources. There are no toxic CFCs or HCFCs, and there are no harmful emissions during the production process. Also, steam used during the production process results in minimal wastage and maximal use of water. Also, expanded polystyrene is 100% recyclable; therefore, only about 0.1% of civic wastage consists of expanded polystyrene. That is why it is safe to say that the community can go green with styrene or 100% recyclable polystyrene.