Styrofoam Polymers

Chances are, you use Styrofoam almost daily. Those fold-and-seal take out boxes are made from Styrofoam. So are the thick white cups used to keep your hot cocoa warm. How about those wedges of plastic you find in packing boxes? Styrofoam keeps computers, electronics, and other fragile items safe when they’re shipped. Styrofoam is lightweight and cheap. It’s a great insulator too. So what’s not to love about Styrofoam? Plenty.

Fun Facts

  • Styrofoam, or polystyrene, is made from the plastic monomer, styrene.
  • Styrene is made from petroleum products, which are non-renewable and pollute the environment.
  • Styrene is a health hazard. Exposure to it causes skin and eye irritation, headaches, depression, and weakness.
  • Chemicals from Styrofoam plates and cups can leach into food, especially if you microwave the Styrofoam.
  • Styrofoam takes up a lot of space in landfills and doesn’t break down or recycle easily.
  • It does break into small chunks that can choke animals.


Styrofoam: a type of plastic made from styrene

Landfill: a large area where trash is stored

Hazard: a danger

Petroleum product: a product typically made from oil or oil by-products

Learn More

Visit the United States Embassy to learn more about Styrofoam.

Q and A

Question: If Styrofoam is so bad, what can I use instead?

Answer: Try to stick with products made with reusable or recyclable materials, such as glass, paper, bamboo or plastic made from corn.