Styrene packaging: a sustainable material?

Styrene packaging has been a strong and efficient packaging solution for many years now. However, as the search for eco-packaging solutions grows, some companies can be deterred by this material’s bad reputation in terms of sustainability.

Considering styrene packaging’s sustainability is a complex process that needs to look into many different directions. At the same time certain alternatives such as those produced using biomass turn out to be environmentally-friendly choices. 

We analyze how sustainable is styrene packaging exactly and what potential biomass alternatives are possible today.


What is biomass styrene plastic?

Styrene is an organic compound derived from fossil fuels and one of the most used chemicals in the world across a number of industries.

Biomass styrene plastic has been developed as a more sustainable alternative to this highly efficient material: instead of being a petroleum by-product, biomass styrene replaces fossil raw materials with renewable ones. 

Thus, biomass styrene plastic is considered a bioplastic solution: plastic materials that are derived from renewable, biological sources, seeking to reduce these materials’ environmental impact. Some common sources for bioplastics include plant and vegetable waste, algae or wastewater, among others. 

In other words, bioplastics present similar characteristics as traditional plastics, but typically provide the following sustainable benefits:

  • They come from renewable sources
  • Their production generates fewer greenhouse gases than traditional plastics 
  • Some allow biodegradation and all of them are recyclable

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What purposes does styrene serve?

Styrene and polystyrene (a derivative product) is the main raw material behind many plastics, resins and rubber materials. As such, it can be found in a number of applications:

  • Diverse packaging solutions, from food containers to industrial packaging 
  • Building and home maintenance materials, including insulation solutions
  • Glue
  • Optical fiber
  • Many manufactured products, from craft supplies to automotive parts
  • Different coating

Styrene packaging

Styrene packaging: huge business possibilities

Some materials derived from styrene such as expanded polystyrene are commonly used to design and manufacture packaging solutions. 

This is because both EPS and EPP share certain features which make them perfect for packaging:

  • Extraordinary thermal insulation
  • Lightweights
  • Great shock-absorption capabilities
  • Mechanical resistance
  • Customization possibilities, as both can be turned into foam-based materials and moulded into personalized designs

At the same time, EPS and EPP present distinct possibilities for packaging:

Expanded Polystyrene Packaging

EPS packaging represents an outstanding option for food packaging solutions. There are two specific reasons for this: this material is inert and is able to keep food products unaltered, as well as avoid the growth of damaging microorganisms.

Expanded Polypropylene Packaging

EPP is used to transport and protect all types of products and is particularly suitable to develop Returnable Transit Packaging (RTP) solutions, as it’s durable and can be cleaned easily.

Is styrene packaging eco-friendly?

The right choice of packaging is in fact a strategic decision that can have an important impact on a company’s branding and logistics, among other consequences. 

The search for eco-packaging is in fact driving the green packaging market growth, which is expected to register a CAGR of 5.7% from 2021 to 2026, according to figures by Mordor Intelligence

In order to consider whether styrene packaging qualifies as eco-packaging, it’s important to consider what qualities make a packaging solution sustainable. 

This analysis should take into account the whole life cycle assessment of the packaging solution, considering the following aspects among others:

  • Uses sustainable materials. This means they’re sustainably sourced and generate a small carbon footprint during their production.
  • Generates a low energy consumption during its production as well as its life cycle. For instance, lightweight and customized, palletized solutions use less transport energy, as they can be more easily transported.
  • Is reusable, recyclable or biodegradable, thus it doesn’t represent an important source of packaging waste.

You could be interested in reading more about What is environmentally friendly packaging?

 Eco packaging materials at Knauf Appliances

EPP and EPS: sustainable materials  

  • They’re 100% recyclable, given the right structures are put into action.  In fact, only 0.1% of municipal solid waste is expanded polystyrene. For instance, at Knauf Appliances we’ve developed the Knauf Circular® system, which seeks to guarantee EPS packaging is given a new life through our own circular economy model.
  • Both EPS and EPP generate a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to other traditional packaging materials. 
  • As their production processes use steam as a source of energy, there’s little consumption of water, which can additionally be recycled.
  • Its manufacturing process generates a small amount of waste, as every unused item can be incorporated back into the process. 
  • These materials only use 2% of polystyrene (98% of EPS and EPP is air), which minimizes the carbon footprint associated with their production.

Discover NEOPS®: the biomass alternative to styrene packaging


NEOPS® is a new non-petro-sourced foam material developed by Knauf Industries which represents an efficient alternative to EPS and EPP. In fact, this material’s technical performance is identical to EPS and EPP but presents a better environmental impact.

Manufactured according to the concept of biomass balance and REDcert² certified, this material replaces fossil raw materials with renewable raw materials. 

As a consequence, it represents a sustainable packaging material based on circular economy models that reduce the use of fossil raw materials, while greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions are cut by at least 30%.

At the same time, NEOPS® is 100% recyclable in the PSE sectors. 

All in all, it presents companies with the opportunity to adopt an eco-packaging solution without compromising on performance and protective capabilities.

Want to learn more about current sustainable and efficient packaging solutions? At Knauf Appliances we can help you. Get in touch with us and talk to our team of experts about the best packaging solutions for your company.

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