September 20, 2019

Sustainable replacements for Styrofoam packaging


Eco-friendly materials capable of replacing polystyrene foam

Sustainable replacements for Styrofoam packaging – Polystyrene foam, better known as Styrofoam, has provided a cheap, lightweight, and easy-to-produce resource for a variety of industries since its rise in popularity in the 1940s. But over time, polystyrene (EPS) slowly made its way to landfills and into our oceans, polluting our environment with toxic, non-biodegradable waste. Now, companies turn to alternative resources to replace their polystyrene packaging and improve their impact on the environment.


Problems with Polystyrene

The ecological issues with polystyrene are wide-ranging. It’s made with styrene, a recognized carcinogen, which presents human safety and health concerns. Also, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of. In fact, many communities do not have facilities capable of recycling polystyrene. The reality of the situation is that vast amounts of polystyrene find its way into the environment every year. And it never breaks down, surviving for 500 years in landfills, where it absorbs dangerous chemicals and contaminates the soil around it.

New York City, Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have all passed legislation banning polystyrene. With EPS exposed as unsustainable and cities across the nation passing bans, companies scramble to find alternatives with similar properties to fulfill their supply chain needs. We wanted to showcase our list of eco-friendly alternatives to Styrofoam.


Paper-based packaging that replaces polystyrene

Paper-based packaging

Paper presents a clear replacement option for foam packaging. It’s renewable and biodegradable, which immediately makes it a more environmentally friendly option compared with polystyrene. Paper packaging has a significantly higher rate of recycling than polystyrene foam. While EPS only manages 10-12% recycling rate, paper and corrugated material achieve a recycling rate of 78% on average.


Bamboo for bamboo packaging

Bamboo to the rescue

Bamboo presents a clear alternative to polystyrene in the packaging industry as well. Companies have used bamboo as a protective resource for millenia, but the sustainability movement recently pushed it to the forefront and inspired new technologies and techniques for using bamboo instead of EPS. Notably, Dell Computers turned to bamboo for its packaging solutions in 2009 and has not looked back since. Several eco-friendly fashion brands also utilize bamboo packaging for their products.

Bamboo is a perfect example of a natural replacement for protective packaging. Its strength and durability make it ideally suited to withstand the rigors of transit shipping. Plus, as the fastest growing plant in the world, bamboo is a renewable resource, in addition to being both biodegradable and recyclable.


EPS replacement packaging - Mushroom Packaging

Mushroom-based material

Following bamboo on our list are mushroom-based packaging solutions. “Fungi packaging” is popular in large part thanks to IKEA’s shift away from using polystyrene for their packaging. Mushroom-based packaging utilizes mycelium, which creates strong fiber bonds as it grows and can be molded like foam. In contrast to EPS, mycelium packaging solutions are fully biodegradable and decompose in a backyard garden within a few weeks.


EPE offers sustainable replacements for styrofoam packaging

EPE offers sustainable packaging replacements to polystyrene that achieve higher performance at a lower environmental impact. Our packaging solutions utilize 100% curbside recyclable materials, such as polyethylene and polypropylene,, which both can be reused and easily recycled as class four (4) or class five (5) materials.

Our packaging solutions not only allow for reuse, which significantly improves your environmental footprint and sustainability of each package, but our innovative designs substantially reduce overall material, which reduces energy and removes unnecessary waste from entering our waste streams.

There are plenty of more sustainable options out there capable of replacing polystyrene packaging. Talk to one of our packaging experts today about how EPE can help you make the switch from EPS to better solutions.