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Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

Expanded Polytyrene is 98% air. Encapsulated air is throughly proven to be the most important ingredient in effective thermal insulation.

Expanded polystyrene is actually pretty cool stuff!

When you see a product made of EPS, the natural perception is that it is a solid thing. In reality it is actually mostly air.

Expanded polystyrene starts as tiny granules of styrene which are dissolved and blown with steam, expanding the granules into bubbles which can then be pressure-formed into objects in special moulds. The bubbles and the objects made from them consist of 2% styrene and 98% air. That’s right, 98% air.

The European Union Manufacturers of Expanded Polystyrene (EUMPS) organisation commissioned a campaign to re-image EPS and create a more accurate perception of what EPS is and what it can do. The campaign identified EPS under a new name – AIRPOP, which describes what it mainly consists of, and also a way to understand its physical characteristics as – ‘ENGINEERED AIR’.

As a building product, it is particularly interesting when used on site as concrete formwork. The visible EPS formwork is actually predominantly air! Think about it, concrete formed by Air.

EPS has undergone widespread research and development since it was first produced, and tested extensively to determine its characteristics and performance. EPS is an inert material that is not composed of any substances toxic to humans or the environment. Used and disposed of responsibly, EPS is an extremely effective construction material that has uses such as void-forming, geo-forming, insulation, permanent and removable concrete formwork, and exterior plastering finishing and detail substrates.

Allied with concrete as a comprehensive forming medium, it has many benefits such as facilitating complex structural shapes, permanent insulation that enhances the thermal properties of concrete, and providing extra protection to structures exposed to extreme forces.

For detail on the characteristics and many uses of EPS, refer to the website links for EUMEPS and AIRPOP on this page.

Some Information about Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

  • EPS is made from a by-product of the oil industry, synthesised to match naturally occurring styrene. Styrene exists in many common foods such as strawberries, nuts etc.

  • In its expanded form Polystyrene is 98% air. The same air we breathe. Only 2% Styrene – think about that!

  • Polystyrene is inert and non-toxic to humans and the environment. 

  • Waste polystyrene in the environment is not the fault of polystyrene; it is due to careless disposal and lack of environmental responsibility by humans! 

  • EPS is used to package cooked food.

  • EPS is used for packaging raw food such as fish.

  • EPS absorbs impacts and protects humans. It is used in crash helmets to resist head injury and has been proven effective in war zones with concrete to resist explosive blast forces.

  • EPS is used in packaging for transport of fragile items.

  • Polystyrene is an extremely effective insulation material used in wide-ranging environments from houses and other buildings in both hot and cold locations, to cold-rooms and refrigerated shipping containers.

  • EPS can be entirely recycled from both product manufacturing and demolition waste. Recycling EPS can produce new EPS or other plastic products many times over. 

  • EPS can be readily formed, moulded or cut into any shape.

  • EPS and concrete interface very effectively as a permanently insulated structure.    

  • EPS will not support combustion in fires. In building materials it is impregnated with a safe organic fire retardent, and when covered in finishing materials is protected from flame in any case. EPS formed concrete repeatedly performs extremely well in wildfire environments, leaving houses safe and intact.