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Shining a light on the sustainable nature of the manufacturing of expanded polystyrene

sustainable expanded polystyrene

In the world of building and construction, careful consideration must be given to every element of the build to ensure stringent environmental standards are adhered to.

Everything, from the building plans and design through to the very materials used in the build, needs to be examined to ensure it meets the long list of guidelines set out by the relevant governing bodies.

Some building products stand head and shoulders above the pack when we consider the environmental impact of producing them and their sustainable characteristics. One such product is expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Manufacturing EPS

A rigid cellular plastic foam material, EPS is derived from petroleum and natural gas products. The styrene component is produced from benzene and ethylene, which is then polymerised in the presence of catalysts such as organic peroxides.

Once that part of the process has been completed, the beads are then subjected to steam, which causes them to expand up to 40 times their original size. Each individual bead is then fully sealed, which reduces the possibility of water absorption once it is installed.

Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA), the national industry body for all EPS manufacturers and distributors in Australia, notes that the manufacturing of EPS uses less than 0.1% of global crude oil as a feedstock, yet it can deliver up to 200 times its own resource in thermal energy savings.

Green friendly EPS

While it is very much a processed material rather than a raw material, EPS’ positive impact on the environment is far greater than most would believe. And far greater than that of other products that are manufactured in large quantities the world over.

One testament to that is the fact that there is no residual solid waste generated in the production of EPS products. EPS products are purpose-moulded for specific use, and any cut-off pieces are simply reprocessed and reinserted into the production process for the next job.

While EPS products are still finding their way into landfill in far too great a number, the EPSA, along with some of the more environmentally aware EPS manufacturers, are working hard to highlight the recyclable nature of EPS and facilitate its recycling for both businesses and consumers.

But when it comes to its production, EPS is very much an environmentally friendly, sustainable material.

A material of choice for builders

Given the sustainable aspects of its production, EPS is increasingly being utilised on both commercial and residential building projects.

Expanded polystyrene is an efficient and effective thermal insulation option for builders. As such, it can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and can directly

contribute to the green credentials of a building project.

While it has been lauded as an innovative insulation material since the 1950s, today EPS is also recognised as an ideal choice for green building design. And while it may not get the attention it deserves, the sustainability aspect of EPS manufacturing shouldn’t be ignored.

Foamex & sustainability

As a proud member of the EPSA, Foamex is fully committed to sustainability initiatives in the manufacture of EPS products. Our wide range of EPS products, which are being utilised by businesses in a range of industries, from building and construction to signwriting, theatre and prop, and protective packaging, are all produced with a strong focus on minimising any resulting waste and environmental impact. By reusing all EPS manufacturing waste, virtually all EPS manufactured at Foamex is directly used for products. Find out more.

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