Polystyrene: More Than Just Packaging

More than any other plastic, people believe myths about polystyrene. Is it as bad or toxic as we think? TL;DR: It’s recyclable and not toxic to humans.

PS (6) is the plastic polystyrene, recycling category 6, and there is more to it than just ‘Styrofoam’. STYROFOAM® is actually a trademarked brand of expanded polystyrene packaging, and is only one use of the incredibly versatile polystyrene plastic. Expanded polystyrene is the opaque foam packaging, but there is also polystyrene homopolymer, otherwise called ‘crystal’ polystyrene. While these two types of polystyrene share a name and properties, they are very different in appearance and uses.

There are many benefits of polystyrene:

  • Excellent insulation properties with minimal condensation
  • Lightweight but strong
  • Water resistant
  • Inert
  • Absorbs shock
  • Resists bacteria, fungus, and microorganism growth
  • Cheaper than other packaging materials

Looking at this list, it seems obvious why it makes such a great packing material; it protects products against shock, it’s light but strong, it keeps the product at a stable temperature, and it’s cheap to create.

Uses of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

There are many uses of expanded ‘foam’ type polystyrene, because of its superior cushioning and insulating properties.

  • Hot drink cups
  • Takeaway containers
  • Packaging such as fruit trays and chilly bins
  • Packaging for electronics
  • Insulated panel systems for buildings
  • Insulation in appliances such as dishwashers and fridges
  • Floatation devices like pontoons
  • Can be used as fill in roadway construction
  • Car parts such as trims and instrument panels
  • Crash helmets
  • Car seats for infants
  • Surfboards

Due to its properties, polystyrene is ideal for food packaging because it:

  • Is safe for food contact
  • Helps to reduce food-borne illnesses
  • Keeps hot foods hot, and cold foods cold
  • Does not affect flavour of the food
  • Is up to five times cheaper than reusable or paper-based counterparts
Crystal Polystyrene

The crystal form of polystyrene has the same insulating and non-reactive properties as the foam, but it is clear, brittle, and a hard plastic. It looks like glass, and therefore has a number of uses in industries where being able to see a product is an advantage. The uses for crystal polystyrene include:

  • Cosmetic pots
  • CD cases
  • Toys (think of any hard, clear toy)
  • A range of medical equipment such as test tubes
  • Disposable pens
  • Appliances, like the outside of a hairdryer
  • Gardening pots

It’s particularly good for the hemp and cosmetic industries, for a number of reasons.

  • It looks like glass, giving it an upmarket appearance without the risk of shattering like glass does
  • The clear glass allows users to see the actual colour of the product
  • It allows users to see at a glance how much product they have left
  • When the cap and jar are both polystyrene, it creates an airtight seal and prevents spills, making it ideal for liquids and travel
  • It retains freshness of the product, keeping products like essential oils, balms, serums, and waxes fresh for longer
  • Polystyrene is inert, so does not risk contaminating the product
Can Polystyrene Be Recycled in NZ?

One of the big myths about polystyrene is that it can’t be recycled. While that’s not strictly true, it is not as easy to recycle as other types of plastic.

The big problem with expanded polystyrene is that it’s fragile, breaking down easily into tiny pieces which go into the environment and particularly, into waterways. It also takes up a lot of space in landfills. Luckily, due to that fragile nature of polystyrene, it is easy to grind down and reuse.

Currently, polystyrene is not picked up by local waste kerb side recycling systems in NZ. However, it can be recycled into house insulation. Consumers can drop off their household waste at a number of sites around the country. The recycler can also arrange pickup from commercial sites such as whiteware retailers.

The hard crystal polystyrene cannot be recycled in NZ.

Polystyrene Hemp, CBD, and Cosmetic Packaging

At Comag Agencies, we have a range of elegant packaging options made from polystyrene. Whether it’s a lip balm or sample container that easily fits in a pocket or handbag, or a larger pot for a balm or cream, we can help.

Check out our range of Cosmetic Pots. We have an extensive range of cosmetic and food packaging options and can help to advise you on what will be best for your product longevity and safety.

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Comag Agencies are proud to carry pharmaceutical, medical, nutritional and personal care packaging solutions. Manufactured right here in New Zealand, with tamper-proof lids and a range of seals available to keep products fresh.

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