What is Styrofoam™ Packaging?

Styrofoam™ packaging, a Dow Chemical Company trademark, refers to the lightweight, expanded polystyrene (EPS) material widely used to cushion products during shipping. Its excellent insulation properties and buoyancy make it a popular choice for protecting delicate items. But what impact does its convenience have on our environment? Explore the balance of utility and sustainability in our full article.
Ken Black
Ken Black

Styrofoam™ packaging is a a type of packaging made of a polystyrene material that is cheap and very effective at protecting packages. Styrofoam™ packaging may come in a variety of sizes and shapes, chosen specifically to help protect an item at risk. In some cases, the packaging may be made to fit the product and keep it from shifting in transit. In other cases, the Styrofoam™ packaging may fit loosely in the box. It can even compose the entire packaging for the product, such as in the case of Styrofoam™ cups.

The pieces of Styrofoam™ packaging that simply fill space in the box are often referred to as peanuts or Styrofoam™ peanuts. In some cases, they may even look a little like peanuts, though it is likely the term stems from the fact they are approximately the same size as the nuts. This is one of the most common forms of the packaging material.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Another type of Styrofoam™ packaging is molded to fit a particular product so that it stays tight inside a box. This is an option especially popular when protecting certain electronics, such as televisions and sound systems. The more the product moves inside the box, the greater the chance is it will become damaged in transit. This type of packaging is more expensive simply because it has to be molded for a particular product. However, it does offer some additional levels of protection.

Most are familiar with Styrofoam™ packaging because they have received items that have come in such protection. However, the product is also available to the private consumer when shipping valuables. It can usually be found wherever shipping supplies are sold. Office stores and discount stores often carry the material, as well as stores that specialize in shipping and receiving services.

While the value of the material is generally not questioned, many believe there are better alternatives to Styrofoam™ packaging. Polystyrene and other plastics can take a long time to degrade or compose, meaning they last longer and landfills or the environment. Also, ingesting the product can be harmful to animals.

Therefore, some have suggested alternatives to Styrofoam™ packaging in recent years. This includes custom-molded cardboard and other types of stiff paper products, as well as air liners. While these alternatives may not be suitable for every case, they can provide viable alternatives in some situations. If Styrofoam™ packaging is used, it is best to make sure it is disposed of properly so that it does not cause as much harm to the environment.

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