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Why Polystyrene Cooler Boxes are an excellent choice for Cold Chain Packaging...except for one thing.

EPS polystyrene is a petroleum-based polymer originally developed in Germany by Bayer, who has been manufacturing polystyrene since 1930. The polystyrene manufacturing process involves polycondensation of aniline and phenol with benzoyl chloride, producing polyphenylene sulfide (PPS). It is then heated to create polystyrene granules. Polystyrene provides excellent insulation and is a great packaging material for food, pharmaceutical, and vaccine storage. It will keep the temperature stable over an extended period during shipping and handling.

It’s also the prevalent packaging material because it’s lightweight, easy to work with, and inexpensive. EPS polystyrene is composed of polyethylene, the same polyethylene that makes up most plastic bottles (clear and soft). EPS polystyrene polyethylene is also non-reactive, which means that it will not corrode or cause contamination of food. It can also be quickly frozen and then defrosted without affecting the material.

infographic of the eps used in polystyrene cooler boxes - now available in biodegradable models - why polystyrene cooler boxes are an excellent choice for cold chain packaging

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Below are some of the thermal insulating properties of polystyrene cooler boxes, which influence the material’s performance

  1. Thermal Diffusivity – The Thermal Diffusivity of materials is a measure of how quickly heat energy can be transmitted. Metals, for example, have high thermal diffusivity because they transport coldness very efficiently. Wood on the other hand absorbs heat slowly due to its structure which means it has low adiabatic density – meaning not all radiant or conductive rays are absorbed equally either way even though both convey much less power than convective ones.
  2. Density – A material’s density is a measure of how much it weighs per unit volume. Materials with high densities will maximize weight and have low thermal diffusivity, while materials that are lightweight or highly disperse heat easily can be used where energy efficiency matters most such as initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions from transport logistics networks.
  3. Thermal Conductivity – Thermal conductivity measures the amount of heat energy transmitted through a material through conduction. The most prevalent method of heat transfer via insulation is through conduction. It is also known as the lambda value—the lower the number, the better the result. The thermal conductivity of EPS foam varies by density — that is, materials with more cells per inch have lower thermal conductivity ratings than those with fewer cells per inch. This makes it ideal in the insulation of an Expanded Polystyrene cooler box.
  4. Thermal resistance – A poor quality material is very inefficient. As the thermal resistance (the rate at which heat flows through a given material) increases so does insulation failure. The greater thicknesses with lower conductivities result in less heating power needed for same space temperature-needs.
  5. Specific Heat Capacity is the amount of heat energy necessary to increase the temperature of 1kg at room-temperature by 1K (or Celsius). When an object has a high Specific Heating Capacity, it needs more time before heating starts and so becomes less effective as insulation than objects with low specific heats – these also happen mass. Materials that provide thermal buffering or have large amounts stored for delay purposes in their structure.
  6. Vapor permeability is the measure of how easy it would be for water vapor to move through a material. Vapor-permeable insulation, which trap air molecules, will prevent condensation. Non-vapor resistant materials allow moisture inside them.
  7. Embodied carbon – The amount of gas released into the atmosphere during production and saved when an insulation is utilized can have a big impact on global warming. Embodied carbon, or “embodied g,” refers to these emissions from fossil fuels used for energy extraction as well as transportation.

The problem with today’s polystyrene cooler boxes

Polystyrene is considered a non-recyclable material, which means that if polystyrene polyethylene breaks down, the polyethylene pieces become microplastics that pollute land and water and affect wildlife, so they must be sent to a landfill once you’re done with it. It also needs to be disposed of responsibly because polystyrene polyethylene can clog waterways when washed onto beaches or shorelines after use on boats or ships.

A solution to the polystyrene challenge

A biodegradable version* is used in a new type of polystyrene polyethylene coolers called the TempAid Biodegradable™ It has several benefits that help it stand out from the original material. Benefits include recent lab testing that shows that when conducted under simulated conditions in both wetter and biologically active landfills, the Biodegradable EPS showed biodegradation of 91.9% of the product over four years*; Long after standard EPS containers are generally used. And just like standard EPS, it has a wide performance temperature range (-20ºF to 190ºF) and high strength.

TempAid biodegradable polystyrene cooler boxes are a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to standard polystyrene. They help you meet your business goals by maintaining superior performance while biodegrading at the end of their useful life.

For more information on biodegradable merchandising materials, contact us.


The resin used in these coolers biodegrade 92% over four years. They were tested using sample items under conditions simulating both wet and biologically-active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. The extent of degradation and the stated rate does not mean the product will continue to decompose. The data stated above has been provided in good faith and is believed to be reliable. It does not constitute a part of our terms and conditions of sale unless incorporated explicitly in our Order Acknowledgment.

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