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Polystyrene Plastic: Making Life Better

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By Richard Shaw, Director, Circular Economy & Sustainability 

I can't imagine a life without plastic, specifically polystyrene plastic, which is one of the products AmSty makes.

Created from styrene monomer, another product we produce, polystyrene has a long been a favorite of manufacturers because it's durable, attractive, lightweight, tough, energy-efficient and a great insulator. And today, because of AmSty's innovation in circular technologies, polystyrene products can be recycled back to their original quality and durability to be used over and over again – keeping it out of our landfills. Another bonus for companies and consumers alike.

Polystyrene plays an important role in our lives in ways you may not even realize.

FOOD SAFETY AND PRESERVATION

Food packaging made from polystyrene is important for food quality and safety. It's the foam in our coolers that keeps our food and drinks cold and safe to consume, whether we're simply taking lunch to work or headed camping or to the beach.

It's also one of the primary materials for refrigerators, keeping perishables preserved and safe from contamination and spoilage.

Our PolyRenew® polystyrene – made with certified recycled content – is useful in both foam applications like meat trays, egg cartons and school lunch trays, and rigid applications like tableware, cups, containers and drink lids. Do you use any of these?

Think about the takeout containers and tableware that were vital during the pandemic as we isolated at home and that allowed restaurants to stay in business. Leading health organizations have long promoted the use of disposable food service products made from polystyrene to manage food safety.

You may not realize that organic food waste comprises a significant percentage of landfill space. By avoiding spoilage, polystyrene helps to reduce this kind of waste.

MEDICAL APPLICATIONS

The unique properties of polystyrene also make it an excellent fit for the medical field. Many products used on the front lines of life-saving research and medicine are made from polystyrene due to its optical clarity and ease of sterilization.

In a clinical setting, polystyrene can be found in tissue culture trays, pipettes, and roller bottles. Prescription medicines often come in a polystyrene pharmaceutical container. Life-saving organ transplants can be shipped across the country in coolers that benefit from polystyrene's insulating properties. During the pandemic, polystyrene contributed to successful diagnostic and intervention programs, from the petri dishes and test tubes where viruses were cultured and studied, to test kit containers used for early diagnosis, and even syringes delivering life-saving vaccines.

ENERGY CONSERVATION

Polystyrene is more climate-friendly, too, when compared with other materials like paper. In fact, when expanded with a blowing agent, polystyrene foam is often the most sustainable choice for its intended application.

For example, because a foam cup is 95% air by volume, the production process requires 35% less energy and 40% less water and emits 40% less CO2 than similar products like paper cups.

Polystyrene foam also makes an excellent insulator and is widely used in construction as a sub-layer in building veneers, as well as in geo-forms for foundations and in the building of roadways and bridges. These same insulating properties can be found in portable applications from commercial refrigerated trucks to personal coolers.

Today, more than ever, we rely on packaging that's not only safe for the environment but also enhances our lives and keeps us safe. Polystyrene is truly a remarkable material and one that can now be recycled continuously thanks to AmSty's forward thinking and focus on protecting our planet.

Imagining life without polystyrene? I'd rather not. Picturing life where we continue to enjoy its benefits and it never ends up in our landfills? I think we can all get behind that.

I encourage you to learn more in AmSty's new sustainability report, "Driving Sustainable Change," where we document our journey as a company that's leading the way to innovate for a more sustainable world

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