Nebraska Patent of the Month – October 2022
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), a lightweight, durable, inert substance used in a broad range of commercial products. These EPS products are exceptional at thermal insulation and shock absorption. These properties make EPS a great material to support packaging and transportation. Unfortunately, the material takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. Given the state of our environment, reducing impact is essential.
Plastilite Corp. has been a leading manufacturer of EPS foam packaging, products, and coolers for over 60 years. Their recent mission to reduce environmental impact has guided the company through R&D efforts with a focus on developing biodegradable and eco-friendly packaging alternatives. These efforts have led to their recently granted patent for an oxo-biodegradable EPS.
This oxo-biodegradable EPS is 95-99% polystyrene and 0.1-5% chemical additives. These additives include zinc ferrite, mixed metal oxides, and zinc stearate. These additives allow the material to oxidize, transforming into a material that can biodegrade. EPS is a unique material since in its expanded state it is up to 98% air. This porosity allows oxo-biodegradation to work especially well and more readily than in other solid plastic products.
Oxo-biodegradable materials degrade and break down faster in the presence of oxygen. By controlling storage, this EPS will remain shelf stable and durable for years, until degradation is desired. It can degrade in landfills when exposed to ambient air, natural sunlight, heat, and even moisture, each of which will accelerate the process. This ensures that, whether properly disposed of or tossed aside, the product will degrade and have a shorter impact on the area.
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