What is polystyrene?

Polystyrene is a synthetic polymer made from styrene monomer, which is a liquid petrochemical. It is a thermoplastic polymer that softens when heated and can be converted via semi-finished products, such as films and sheets, into a wide range of items.

Properties of polystyrene

Polystyrene can be rigid or foamed.

General purpose polystyrene is clear, hard and brittle. Polystyrene is naturally transparent but can be coloured with colourants.

High impact polystyrene. Polystyrene containing a polybutadiene rubber impact modifier is opaque or translucent rather than transparent. It is often used blended with general purpose polystyrene or on its own in a wide range of household applications and food packaging.

How polystyrene is used

Polystyrene is used in a wide range of applications, including:

● Packaging

● Household appliances

● Consumer electronics products

● Building and construction, for example, insulation foam, panels, bath and shower units, lighting and plumbing fixtures

● Medical items, such as tissue culture trays, test tubes, Petri dishes, diagnostic components, and housing for test kits

Further reading

Styrene – a world of possibilities

Packaging Materials 2: Polystyrene for Food Packaging Applications

Styrenics Circular Solutions