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What is expanded Polystyrene (EPS)?

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a foam insulation material produced by expanding solid beads of polystyrene. A cost-effective, easy-to-use and process material, it performs as an acoustic and thermal insulator, is moisture resistant, recyclable and environmentally sound.

What is airpop?

EPS has been known under a variety of names over the years. For example, polystyrene and foam packaging. And now the material has a European name: airpop® engineered air.

What are the benefits offered by EPS?

User benefits:

  • Excellent thermal insulation
    EPS is 98 percent air, and is therefore and excellent thermal insulation material.
  • Proven acoustic insulation
    EPS absorbs sound, both impact sound in floating floors and airborne sound for walls.
  • Moisture resistant
    EPS resists degradation by absorption of water.
  • Lifetime durability
    EPS does not decompose. It therefore provides lifetime application.
  • Flexible mechanical properties
    With its flexible production process, the mechanical properties of EPS can be adjusted to suit every specified application.
  • Versatile
    EPS can be manufactured in almost any shape or size, and is compatible with a wide variety of materials.
  • Cost-effective
    EPS offers the best price/performance ratio compared to any other insulation material.
  • Easy to transport
    EPS is almost as light as air, so it saves fuel in transport.
  • Easy to install
    EPS is light, practical, safe and comfortable to handle and install.
  • Flame retardant
    There are two grades: FR grade, a version that is "self extinguishing" that includes a flame retardant and non-FR without a flame retardant.

Environmental benefits:

  • Extremely safe
    EPS is non-toxic and totally inert. It contains no Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or Hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and never has at any time during its life-cycle. It is also totally absent of any nutritional value so no fungi or micro-organisms, such as mold, can grow within EPS.
  • Recyclable
    At the end of its initial application, EPS is recycled in high percentages of up to70 % . The options include recycling directly into new building products, as light weight fill material or by incineration to recover its inherent energy content. The choice of a recycling method is based on technical, environmental and economic considerations.
  • Health Aspects
    EPS presents no dangers to health in installation and use. EPS doesn't scratch your hands nor does it irritate your skin or mucous membranes. Labour laws do not require gloves or masks to work with such a soft and solid material. EPS is biologically inert and doesn't produce any pathogenic dust, even on the long term. Thus EPS is safe for both installers and users.
  • Fulfils all fire and safety requirements
    All EPS building applications, as promoted by the European EPS industry, fulfil local building regulations in every European country.

How is EPS made?

EPS beads are formed by steam-heating small amounts of pentane gas dissolved in the polystyrene base material during production. The gas expands under the steam, to form perfectly closed cells of EPS. These cells occupy 40 to 60 times the volume of the original polystyrene bead. The EPS beads are then moulded into appropriate forms suited to their application such as insulation boards, blocks or customised shapes for the building and packaging industry.
Video explaining production of EPS

Who needs EPS?

Anyone who needs to thermally and acoustically insulate walls, roofs or floors will find EPS the ideal, cost-effective and comfortable and easy-to-use material in all types of buildings, from houses and offices to factories and schools.

Where is EPS used? What is the market in Europe?

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is among the biggest commodity polymers produced in the world. The total world demand in 2007 was over 4 million tonnes. EPS is used in many applications like thermal insulation board in buildings, lightweight fill in road building, packaging, cushioning of valuable goods and food packaging. Western Europe contributes 27 percent of the global demand for EPS and was more than 1 million tonnes in 2007. The corresponding value of this volume is approximately 3 billion Euro. The average annual growth is expected to be 2.5 percent per annum up to 2010.

Does the manufacture of EPS have any impact upon the environment?

EPS is one of the best insulation materials with respect to environmental impact. EPS does not damage the ozone layer because in the manufacturing process no CFCs are used. The environmental effects of the manufacture of EPS raw material (expandable polystyrene bead) and its conversion to EPS insulation material are minor. LCA analysis by the Building Research Establishment, UK (BRE) places EPS at the best possible environmental ranking: A+

For further information see the downloads page:
EUMEPS-Brochure "EPS The Environmental Truth – Results of the Life Cycle Assessment" ( PDF, 342.94 kB)
EUMEPS-Brochure "Building a better environment with EPS" ( PDF, 426.36 kB)

Can EPS be recycled?

EPS can be recycled if it is recovered without contamination from other materials. EPS recycling options are in place today and EPS recycle is being used both economically and in an environmentally sound manner on a vast scale. The waste can be ground and mixed with fresh EPS to make new foamed products. Alternatively EPS can be melted and extruded to make compact polystyrene. This is used to manufacture items such as plant pots, coat hangers and wood substitutes or medium toughened polystyrene and for products from which sheet or thermoformed articles such as trays can be made. As part of a mixed plastic waste, EPS can be recycled to make, for example, fence posts and road signs, ensuring the plastic waste has a long and useful new life. Over its life cycle EPS production and recycling uses very little energy in comparison to other insulation materials.

For further information please download the brochure:
EUMEPS-Brochure "Building a better environment with EPS" ( PDF, 426.36 kB)

How does EPS behave in case of fire?

Like practically all organic building materials polystyrene foam is combustible. However, in practice its burning behaviour depends on the conditions under which it is used, as well as the inherent properties of the material. These inherent properties differ depending on whether the cellular material is made from EPS with or without a fire retardant additive. The bonding of other materials to cellular polystyrene also considerably affects its burning behaviour. When installed correctly, expanded polystyrene products do not present an increased fire hazard. It is strongly recommended that expanded polystyrene should always be protected by a facing material.

For further information please download the brochure:
EUMEPS-Brochure "Fire Safe Construction with EPS" ( PDF, 610.17 kB)

Where can I get a list of EPS converters in Europe?

To get a complete list of EPS converters by country, please do interact with EUMEPS national associations.

Where can I get a list of EPS raw material producers in Europe?

The main EPS raw material producers in Europe are listed here at the Plastics Europe website.