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Expanded polystyrene (EPS) has been used in the Australian building industry for over 40 years because it’s strong, lightweight, durable and ticks many sustainability boxes for both commercial and residential construction. But despite its success as a building material, there are several perpetuating myths that must be debunked about EPS.

Shedding some truth on seven EPS assumptions

There are seven key assumptions that are often made about expanded polystyrene and EPS products. Read on as we debunk these myths and shed some light on the virtues of EPS.

Is polystyrene recyclable?

EPS is recyclable at many stages throughout its life cycle. During manufacturing Foamex reuses virtually all EPS waste for products like Expol Underfloor Insulation. The state-of-the-art granulating machines reduce moulded EPS into beads that are then reformed into new products.

To recycle waste EPS, Foamex has recycling facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane to serve the public, as well as EPS end user building and construction sites, civil engineers & contractors, and other EPS manufacturers. Foamex even supplies all deliveries with bags for offcuts of Expol Underfloor Insulation and other products and will pick up on site on request.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS)

Is polystyrene bad for the environment?

While Foamex recycles polystyrene, it is unavoidable that some will end up in landfill. When it does reach landfill, it does not break down as it is an inert material. It therefore does not produce greenhouse gases and does not contaminate groundwater. Over time, polystyrene can break down into small pieces, but it does not release harmful substances in the food chain.

Is polystyrene strong enough for building?

The lightweight nature of polystyrene can sometimes be deceiving when considering its compressive strength. However, EPS is lightweight and extremely strong. The mechanical strength of EPS varies with its density. The most important mechanical property of EPS insulation and building products is its resistance to compressive stresses, which increase as the density becomes higher.

Using EPS can also reduce construction costs because it is lightweight, strong, clean, and easy to handle, making it quicker to install. Expol Underfloor Insulation is easy to install for professionals and as a DIY project for homeowners, making it cost-effective.

EPS is also well proven in civil engineering applications where its inherent strength means it can support structures such as roadways and railways like its recent use in the West Gate Tunnel project in Melbourne.

Is EPS an efficient insulator?

Yes, EPS is an efficient insulator against temperature and noise. Not only does polystyrene insulation stop heat from entering the home, but it also regulates the temperature inside the home by not allowing the heated or cooled air to escape. This in turn reduces the reliance on power-sapping cooling and heating devices, reducing household carbon emissions and energy bills.

Aren’t CFCs produced in the manufacturing of polystyrene?

EPS is a rigid cellular plastic foam material derived from petroleum and natural gas by-products. Its manufacture by Foamex does not involve the use of ozone-layer-depleting CFCs and HCFCs, nor are there harmful materials present in the finished product. The small amount of pentane gas used in the process has no known effect on the upper ozone layer.

The manufacture of EPS is also resource-efficient, as there is little energy used including only a small amount of oil consumption. The process includes the use of steam, that is collected once condensed and then reused over and over.

Is polystyrene fire safe?

Polystyrene products often wrongly get put in the same category as much more dangerous polyethylene products, which have been identified in some cladding products and associated with fires.

Never to be confused with polyethylene, all Foamex polystyrene building products have a fire-retardant component built into them, which means when the panels are exposed to a small flame source, they will shrink away from the naked flame.

Industry body Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA) supports enhanced public safety with strong standards and policing around the area of flammable cladding. Foamex works with the EPSA to ensure the building industry understands the difference between the different product categories.

Foamex polystyrene building products are manufactured in Australia

All Foamex expanded polystyrene and extruded polystyrene products are manufactured locally to stringent Australian building standards, and approved by BRANZ, the trusted independent research, testing, and consulting organisation for the building industry.

Foamex has supplied various polystyrene insulation products to the Australian building and construction industry for more than 40 years, working with builders, engineers, architects, designers, and specifiers to meet their insulation needs. Expol Underfloor Insulation has been in the range for over 10 years.

As an industry leader and long-serving member of Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA), Foamex takes its corporate responsibilities seriously and carefully considers how the business impacts the environment and society. Visit foamex.com.au to learn more.

 Trusted for more than 20 years, EXPOL underfloor insulation is easy to install, available in four convenient joist widths (560mm, 470mm, 410mm, 360mm), and a popular option for DIY underfloor insulation projects.