October 8, 2019

Replacing Styrofoam packaging with thermoforming


The benefits of thermoformed solutions over polystyrene packaging

Problems with polystyrene

Replacing Styrofoam packaging with thermoforming – There are a multitude of flaws, inefficiencies, and environmental issues with traditional packaging methods that use polystyrene material, commonly known as Styrofoam. Polystyrene (EPS) is unsustainable, even dangerous to humans and our environment. It creates a heap of problems for recycling centers, most of which outright refuse to accept polystyrene packaging products. Additionally, dirty polystyrene foam contaminates everything around it, forcing recycling facilities to reject and discard sustainable materials. 


Hidden costs of unsustainability

Polystyrene materials seem cheap on the surface, but have widespread negative effects that incur additional costs to society. St. Louis University compiled a report in 2016 on polystyrene packaging and the “hidden costs associated with the production, environment, and human health.” Their financial model found that the total hidden costs associated with a production output of 3 million tons of Styrofoam equate to $7 billion annually, or $1.02 per product. 


Inefficiencies with Styrofoam packaging

On top of that, companies may absorb hidden costs associated with transit inefficiencies with polystyrene packaging designs. Maximizing efficiency throughout the transit process with optimized packaging designs is crucial for the packaging industry – and Styrofoam over packaging no longer can keep up. 

Styrofoam end caps are a common packaging design that do not take dimensional weight into consideration. As a result, they risk significant freight inefficiencies due to their inability to collapse, nest, or lay flat during shipping. This disadvantage equates to significant freight costs, as it directly represents space on pallets, trucks, shipments – everywhere on the transit chain. 

Additionally, Styrofoam end caps leave businesses and consumers at the end of the transit chain left with the disposal of polystyrene packaging material due to the fact that polystyrene is not recyclable across most of the United States. In contrast, thermoformed solutions allow for easy and efficient reuse and recycling. 


What is thermoformed packaging?

Thermoforming presents a much better alternative packaging material due to its shipping efficiencies and versatile molding capabilities. It’s a cost efficient solution that is widely used throughout all industries and utilizes a variety of materials with different properties; heat-resistant, chemical-resistant, or UV-resistant, depending on the need. Thermoforming is a molding technique that involves heating thin plastic sheets and forming them into specific unique shapes. 

There are huge advantages in choosing thermoformed materials that make it a more favorable solution. 


1. Better Product Protection: Thermoformed solutions offer improved protection through semi-rigid designs that can absorb numerous impacts and are custom molded to envelop and shield products from harm during transit. 

2. Cost Savings: Thermoforming also creates optimized designs that can lay flat and nest during shipping, which reduces freight costs significantly. This allows thermoformed trays to be shipped in bulk and occupy minimum space per shipment and warehouse storage space. 

3. Sustainable and reusable: Thermoforming presents environmental advantages as well, proving to be a superior alternative packaging solution to polystyrene. Efficient shipping and optimized volumetric space reduce emissions for each shipment, lowering the carbon footprint per package. Additionally, EPE collects and reuses our thermoformed packaging materials, establishing sustainable closed loop systems on a large scale to provide our customers maximum efficiency and minimum environmental impact.


4. 100% recyclable: Additionally, thermoformed plastic trays can be easily recycled, which makes them a much more sustainable option compared to Styrofoam packaging. EPE utilizes polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which is 100% curbside recyclable as a class one (1) material. PET is widely recognized as the most recyclable plastic packaging material, with a recycling rate that has increased in recent years to 30% and continues to climb.


Our mission

Improving the recyclability of packaging materials and implementing reusable solutions wherever possible, remain a core aspect of EPE USA’s environmental mission. That’s why we strive to provide innovative and sustainable packaging solutions utilizing technology like thermoforming to replace polystyrene material. 

Make the switch. Talk to one of our professional packaging experts today about how thermoforming can replace polystyrene packaging and provide a more efficient, optimized, and sustainable solution for your packaging requirements.