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Expanded Polystyrene (Foam)

Learn more about this material, including recovery and recycling and which Dart products are made from it.

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Expanded polystyrene (foam) is a multi-faceted plastic used in many common items. It’s known for its light weight, economical value and insulation capabilities. Products made from expanded polystyrene are marked by a “6” within a solid triangle – its resin identification code. This is usually found on or near the bottom of the product.

Expanded polystyrene starts as a liquid monomer and is transformed into a stable, solid polymer pellet. To turn the pellets into polystyrene foam, they are impregnated with a blowing agent, such as pentane or carbon dioxide. This transforms them into “pre-puff” beads. The beads are then heated and puffed up like popcorn. These beads are made into cups, plates and containers through thermoforming or steam-chest molding.


requires laying an extruded sheet of plastic over a mold. Then heat and suction are used to form the plastic into the shape of the mold. Once shaped, these sheets are cooled and trimmed to create the finished product.

During steam-chest molding

polystyrene beads are blown into a mold, further expanded with steam, and fused into puffed beads. The mold releases the final product, and no trimming or cutting is needed.



  • Foam products consume less energy in production than popular alternatives.
  • Foam products are an environmentally sound choice when compared to alternatives on a cradle-to-grave lifecycle basis.
  • Foam burns cleanly in modern municipal energy-from-waste facilities.
  • Polystyrene is an inert material (meaning it does not react with other substances) that is safe and sanitary.

Expanded polystyrene can be recycled. Recycling facilities are limited at this time; however, access is increasing in the US and Canada. Packaging that is less than 2”x2”x2” or black in color is unlikely to be recovered at typical sorting facilities.

For the most accurate information, we recommend checking with your local municipality or waste hauler to see if expanded polystyrene is accepted in your community’s recycling program.  Dart offers public foam recycling in communities where we have a facility. We also offer our Recycla-Pak program for smaller settings.


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