Last edited 18 Mar 2019


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Polystyrene is made by stringing together, or polymerising, styrene, a building-block chemical used in the manufacture of many products. Styrene also occurs naturally in foods such as strawberries, cinnamon, coffee and beef.

It is a versatile plastic used in a number of different forms to make a wide variety of consumer products:

  • As a hard, solid plastic, it is often used in products that require transparency, such as food packaging and laboratory ware.
  • When combined with colourants, additives or other plastics, polystyrene is used to make appliances, electronics, automobile parts, toys, gardening pots and equipment, and so on.
  • When made into a foam material, called expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS), it is valued for its insulating and cushioning properties. Foam polystyrene can be more than 95% air and is widely used to make home and appliance insulation, lightweight protective packaging, surfboards, food service and food packaging, automobile parts, roadway and roadbank stabilisation systems, and so on.

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