Uses of polystyrene

Updated February 21, 2017

First produced commercially in the 1930s, there are two types of polystyrene: general purpose or crystal and medium and high impact. The general purpose polystyrene is an amorphous resin which is clear, possesses electrical properties and a good stiffness. Varying levels of polybutadiene are combined with the polystyrene to create high impact polystyrene, improving impact resistance and toughness. Polystyrene is produced without the use of any chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), making none present in the final product. Consequently, polystyrene poses no damaging or harmful effects to the environment, according to Poly Packaging of the United Kingdom.


Because polystyrene is a strong material, the uses for it are numerous in a variety of industries. The primary aspect of polystyrene is its capability to be formed to nearly any shape and size. Food and dairy containers, produce baskets, fast food containers, closures and vending cups and lids comprise the biggest commercial market of polystyrene. Polystyrene is also used in the durable goods industry in the manufacturing of domestic appliances, toys, household goods, electronic goods and furniture.

Recycled Uses

Recycled polystyrene emits heat that is recovered through special incinerators, thus making it an energy source. After it is recycled into small chips and pieces, polystyrene is used in concurrence with peat to heighten soil properties.


Because polystyrene is not susceptible to rough treatment it is favoured for use as packing materials. Polystyrene is used to protect goods that are shipped by stabilising the items inside the containers. Used for mail order due to its lightweight aspects, polystyrene doesn't add much to postage costs. The food industry uses polystyrene for climate control to keep produce fresh during transportation. Polystyrene is a common insulation product for walls, cavities, lofts and floors.

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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.