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Styrene: The Building Block

It all starts with styrene monomer, a key ingredient for the products manufactured by our styrene customers and the foundation for our lineup of polystyrene products. Styrene is a clear, liquid, organic compound found naturally in coffee beans, cinnamon, peanuts, and strawberries. It can also be produced synthetically.

The applications of styrene touch many aspects of our daily lives. It is all around us in our homes as a key ingredient in carpets, bathroom countertops, pipes, kitchen appliances, lighting fixtures, and TV monitors. It’s in our vehicles in the dashboard, console, steering column, belts, hoses, and tires. The asphalt roads we drive on contain styrene, along with the keyboards we use at work, the swimming pools we enjoy when relaxing outdoors, and the soles of our boots when hiking. Even the safety of our water supply benefits from ion-exchange resins that contain styrene to remove impurities.

Styrene is so important to modern life that it is shipped all over the world. As developing countries gradually improve their standard of living, they are using more styrene to provide life-enhancing products to their citizens. At AmSty, we are proud to produce this essential material that makes life better for the global community.

Polystyrene: A Versatile Material

Made from styrene, polystyrene has long been a sought-after material by manufacturers because it is durable, lightweight, tough, low in moisture absorption, and a great insulator. These properties allow polystyrene to be transformed into a wide variety of products including food packaging, medical applications, appliances, personal safety gear, and insulative solutions.

Compared to other materials and forms of packaging, polystyrene is often a great choice for its application when all lifecycle impacts are considered. Its inherent qualities of high rigidity, efficient processing, and ability to maintain a sturdy and resilient quality when expanded to almost 95% air make it lower in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions compared to alternative materials for the same application.

Polystyrene is developed in strict adherence to regulatory standards. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) endorses polystyrene as a safe choice for food contact applications. At AmSty, we take pride in developing polystyrene resins that are not only versatile and recyclable, but also embody the highest standards of health and safety.

Food Safety and Preservation

Food packaging made from polystyrene is important for food quality and safety. Insulative products made from polystyrene foam enable safe, cold-pack shipment of perishables from the farm and ocean to the kitchen, keeping foods fresh for consumption. Polystyrene is used in applications such as meat and fish trays, egg cartons, school lunch trays, tableware, cups, containers, and drink lids. It is also one of the primary materials for the lining and shelves in refrigerators, keeping food safe from contamination and spoilage.

Polystyrene allows products to be delivered to society with improved resource sustainability and safety. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste is the single most common material sent to landfills in the United States, comprising nearly 25% of municipal solid waste. Polystyrene is a very important material to reduce this waste by keeping foods fresh longer to avoid spoilage. Leading health organizations also encourage the use of single-use foodservice packaging, such as polystyrene, in appropriate settings. This packaging can help reduce food-borne illnesses in homes, hospitals, schools, care centers, cafeterias, and restaurants.

Woman carries foam food containers
Toddler drinks from a straw in a foam cup
Young boy eats yogurt from plastic cup

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.
  • Blood, medication, specimens, and life-saving organ transplants can be shipped across the country in coolers that benefit from polystyrene’s insulating properties.

During the Covid-19 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 has a lighter environmental footprint in many applications, especially when compared with other materials. In fact, when expanded with a blowing agent, polystyrene foam (EPS) 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. When holding hot liquids, polystyrene foam cups remain comfortable to the touch while paper cups radiate heat from inside the cup and can become too hot to hold. The solution when using a paper cup is often to add more paper with another layer or a paper sleeve, further impacting the environmental footprint of the cup.

The impact of a lower carbon footprint for polystyrene foam reaches beyond beverage cup applications. A recent McKinsey study noted that polystyrene foam offers a 35% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution than butcher paper when used for fresh meat packaging.

The insulating properties of polystyrene foam make it widely used in construction as a sub-layer in building veneers, in geo-forms for foundations, in the building of roadways and bridges, and for freeze protection as covers for faucets or exposed valves. These same insulating benefits can be found in portable applications, from commercial refrigerated trucks to personal coolers.

Energy Usage
(million BTU)

EPS cup 5.4
Paper cup 8.3

Water Usage

EPS cup 4,800
Paper cup 8,100

GHG Emissions
(lbs CO2 equivalent)

EPS cup 723
Paper cup 1,215

Daily Benefits of Styrene and Polystyrene

We take pride in developing styrene monomer and polystyrene resins that are not only versatile and recyclable, but offer life-enhancing benefits to so many aspects of our daily lives. From our homes, cars, and offices to our appliances, meals, and hobbies, these are just a few of the countless ways these products sustainably and safely enable us to live each day to the fullest.


Styrene and polystyrene have unique properties needed for carpet, insulation, countertops, baseboards, grout, faucets – and even the handles of our toothbrushes.

Graphic depicting house, faucet and toothbrush


Kitchen appliances benefit from the protective and resilient qualities of polystyrene while many types of food packaging use foam polystyrene to preserve food quality and safety.

Graphic depicting refrigerator, egg carton and meat tray


In our vehicles, the dashboard, console, and steering column cover often contain styrene, as do the belts and hoses under the hood that keep the engine running. Styrene is also a critical material in the roads we drive on.

Graphic depicting tire and steering wheel


These materials go to work with us – literally! They are part of our keyboards, monitors, and picture frames. Even the safety of our water supply is entrusted to ion-exchange resins that contain styrene to remove impurities.

Graphic depicting keyboard, cup and water bottle


Whether sitting down to a feast or grabbing a snack on the go, polystyrene offers valuable properties for food packaging, utensils, and containers.

Graphic depicting foam plate, plastic utensils and yogurt container


When it’s time to relax and unwind or dive into recreation, these versatile materials support us through swimming pools and hot tubs, bike helmets, the soles of our hiking boots, and even in the cooler we pack for meals on the go.

Graphic depicting cooler, bike helmet and hiking boot