Many people are aware of the tremendous versatility of polystyrene. The most recognizable forms of polystyrene are:

– Foamed Polystyrene: used to make cups, bowls, insulated containers such as coolers, greenhouse products, protective corners and packaging solutions for shipping electronics and other fragile items.

– Rigid Polystyrene: used in products such as cutlery, yoghurt and cottage cheese containers, drinking cups and clear bakery and produce containers.

Environmental Impact

– Polystyrene food service foam packaging in most cases has an environmental footprint over the life cycle of the package that is lower than or comparable to alternative packages studied.

– Polystyrene foam 500 ml cup for hot beverages uses a 1/3 less energy, produces 1/3 less greenhouse gases (GHGs) and 50% less solid waste by volume compared to a paperboard 500 ml. cup with a sleeve.

Polyform - Polystyrene Cup

– Polystyrene foam 130 mm clamshell uses around the same amount of energy but produces 25% less GHGs compared to a fluted paperboard 130 mm clamshell.

– Polystyrene foam 1 litre cup for cold beverages uses 50% less energy, produces 25% less GHGs and almost 50% less solid waste by volume compared to a wax coated paperboard 1 litre cup.

– No CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) are used in the manufacturing of foam polystyrene.

Effective Insulator

– Foam polystyrene offers excellent insulation properties and strength and is widely used for packaging of take-away meals, hospital meals, cups for hot and cold beverages and in insulation boards manufacturing.

– “Double cupping” with two paperboard cups is not needed. “Double cupping” results in over twice as much energy used and nearly twice as much GHG emissions compared to a single polystyrene cup.

Health & Safety

– Polystyrene foam foodservice is safe.

– For more than 50 years, polystyrene has been approved by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for food-contact use.

– Polystyrene is sanitary. Reusables require strict attention to proper washing and drying techniques to prevent the spread of disease. They require water and energy to clean.

– Modern meat packaging, distribution and retailing, use polystyrene foam trays because they do not absorb fluids like pulp trays.

Polyform - Polystyrene tray


– Polystyrene food service products are 2 to 3 times less expensive than paper based materials. Choosing polystyrene affords businesses the ability to keep costs low for their customers.


– One in four Canadians have access to municipal recycling for foam polystyrene. One in two Canadians have access to municipal recycling of rigid polystyrene. Polystyrene can be- and is being- recycled into various products like picture frames, coat hangers, seedling trays, cornices, moldings, base boards, office supplies, insulation materials, protective packaging for durable items and in some cases back into food packaging.

– If your city does not offer expanded polystyrene collection, it is possible to drop this material at some collection points and some ecocentres.

– Most single use coated paper board food service packaging materials are not recycled.


– Polystyrene is an inert material which does not break down and release substances in landfill.

– Polystyrene, on average, takes up less than 1% of all landfill space.

– Major contributors to municipal landfill are: Organics 45%, Paper 22%, Plastics other than #6 9%, Glass 5% and Metals 3%.


 - Urban litter audits found that polystyrene cups, trays and clamshells were 1.5 % of total litter found.

– People’s careless behaviour creates litter; not a material.