The Difference Between STYROFOAM™ and EPS

Large Styrofoam Blocks – But are they really EPS?

Nothing about STYROFOAM™ is EPS! Learn the difference between STYROFOAM™ and EPS.

The white stuff most everyone refers to as “Styrofoam” is actually EPS, expanded polystyrene. Styrofoam™ is a Dow trade name and is actually blue in color. No, we are not kidding, it is blue in color! Don’t feel alone in this misconception, it is very common. But these two products could not be more different. Let us explain.

To start, we are not exactly sure how this misconception began – perhaps in some marketing department somewhere and we have to say they have done a very good job. Even those of us in the industry may catch ourselves calling that white little coffee cup a “styrofoam” cup.

But calling all foam products Styrofoam™ is like calling all wine a Chardonnay. Oh my gosh, that would be so wrong, wouldn’t it?!

Now, you certainly could continue on in life calling all foam products Styrofoam, the world will not stop spinning; but if you ever get caught in a good game of Trivial Pursuit, we will have the correct answers for you!

Differences Between Styrofoam™ and EPS

So let’s take a look at the differences. As we said, Styrofoam™ is a Dow trade, blue in color, and is an extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam made for thermal insulation, construction and craft applications. EPS is an expanded polystyrene available in various densities for insulation, construction and craft applications and so much more. EPS can be shape-molded or molded into block form and cut into various shapes. The applications of EPS are literally endless and can range from a drinking cup to packaging to helmets, theater props and signage to a massive GEOFOAM retaining wall. So while you may be tempted to call them “large Styrofoam blocks,” the large white blocks used in civil engineering (i.e. Penn DOT road projects) are actually GEOFOAM blocks and are made out of EPS foam.

While the blue Styrofoam™ and pink Owens Corning have color dyes that can leach into the environment, EPS foam is composed of organic elements – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – and does not contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Instead of being restrained to particular sizes, our EPS foam can be cut to any thickness, length or width. Our standard block size is 36″ x 48″ x 96″ but the maximum block size we can make is 54″ x 49-1/2″ x 220″.

Recycling Options for Styrofoam™ and EPS

EPS Recycling Grinder at ICAWhile both are polystyrene products and are used for some similar applications, that is where the similarity stops. EPS is environmentally friendly and available in various shapes, sizes and densities. Oh, did we forget to mention EPS is more cost effective than XPS too?!

Unfortunately, the white stuff is taking a beating in the news with another big misconception that EPS is ‘non-recyclable.’ But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here at ICA, we are on a mission to change the perception regarding the ability to recycle EPS. We have started to partner with local colleges to increase awareness. Now we are continuing to find ways to spread the word online, that YES, EPS is in fact recyclable. We accept clean EPS foam for recycling at our location in Allentown. Check out our RECYCLING RULES for more information.

It’s not easy going against all these misconceptions about EPS, but ICA will continue to educate and provide quality EPS to our customers. Even to those customers who still want to call it Styrofoam – we will not judge. But please, just don’t call it non-recyclable, that is where we will have to draw the line!


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This article was posted on October 24, 2018, by Insulation Corporation of America (ICA) – a Women-Owned manufacturer of Geofoam and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), which is commonly but mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam™. ICA is located in Allentown, PA and services the entire Mid-Atlantic Region from Virginia to Maine to Ohio.