What’s Polystyrene Resin?

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Polystyrene resin is a widely used thermoplastic polymer with low softening temperatures, good wear characteristics, and excellent electrical insulating properties. It is used in various manufacturing processes and found in household and industrial products. However, it poses fire risks and has extremely low biodegradability, making responsible disposal critical.

Polystyrene resin is a thermoplastic polymer produced from styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon derived from petroleum. The resin possesses low softening temperatures, good wear characteristics, a high refractive index and excellent electrical insulating properties. Polystyrene resin is used in a variety of manufacturing processes such as injection molding, sheet and film extrusion, and foam extrusion. Objects produced from these resins are found in abundance in a wide range of environments. The storage and eventual disposal of resinous products requires considerable care and planning due to the considerable fire risks and extremely low biodegradability characteristics.

Polymer resins have become an integral part of virtually every area of ​​life and can be found in a huge range of household and industrial products. One of the most popular of these plastics is polystyrene resin. This tough, clear thermoplastic possesses a variety of attractive qualities that have made it one of the most widely used polymer resins ever. These features include low cost, good wear properties, low operating temperatures, excellent insulating qualities and a high degree of electrical insulation. The resin’s low transition temperature makes it ideal for manufacturing processes such as thermoforming, injection molding, and various extrusion processes.

When it comes to the wide range of uses, it is almost impossible to find an area where these resin products are not used. Household products range from plastic cutlery to refrigerator door liners and include items such as toys, insulation boards, disposable razors, appliance casings and furniture components. The ubiquitous Styrofoam cup, molded packaging inserts, and peanuts are all produced from polystyrene resin. Most CD and DVD cases also consist of combinations of general purpose polystyrene and high impact resin.

In industrial environments the excellent electrical insulation properties of the resins make it a common material for encapsulating motors and coils. These resins are also a common component of power tool casings, hand tool handles, toolboxes, and construction sheets. The medical and pharmaceutical industries also use a wide variety of these resin products. Items such as Petri dishes, test tubes, microplates and laboratory containers are all manufactured from polystyrene resin using sterile molding techniques. The resin is even used in the manufacture of military ordinances as a binder for RDX TNT explosives, an additive to napalm and one of the components of many variants of hydrogen bombs.

Despite all their widespread uses and positive attributes, these resins have two negative characteristics. The first is the fire risk involved. Polystyrene products, especially foam articles, are highly flammable, burn with a very hot flame and emit large quantities of toxic fumes and soot. For this reason, the use of polystyrene foams as insulation and the storage and transport of polystyrene products require considerable care.

The second disadvantage of polystyrene resin products is their longevity after disposal. Polystyrene products do not biodegrade for several centuries; film and foam items, among others, float and are easily blown by the wind. A worrying part of land and water pollution is made up of polystyrene products, making their responsible disposal a critical consideration.

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