GBF Report - Polystyrene Foam

10 3. PS foam from docks and floats – environmental concerns The initial large volumes of PS foam production were attributed to its use in airplanes (Breskin, 1947), although as PS foam production grew, new applications were identified, including for use in boats and construction: “Applications are broadening…Even bigger than the aviation field is that of building, where the plastics core material has made a beginning as the filling of a sandwich with aluminum sheets outside. And there are boats to be considered… The boating field should find use for it because of its moisture resistance and buoyancy.” —Scientific American article “Expanding Fields for Expanded Plastics” (Breskin, 1947). Since the 1940s, PS foam use has grown in many applications, such as boating, aquaculture, and boat docks. PS foam grew in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s as a material in docks and floats because of its low density, low water absorption, and low material costs (Dunham and Finn, 1974). PS floats are still commonly used in recreational docks and in fisheries (Davidson, 2012; ERDC, 2009; Jang et al., 2016). Floats used in docks and aquaculture typically include both EPS or XPS foam, although XPS grew in popularity due to higher durability compared to EPS (Davidson, 2012; ReVelle and ReVelle, 1992). As early as the 1970s, reports found PS debris in seawater and fish (Carpenter and Smith, 1972), and littering shorelines (Shiber 1979). Early toxicity research at the beginning of the 1980s also discovered that styrene monomers – as well as other compounds related to PS, including ethylbenzene and benzene —were toxic to Daphnia magna , a species of freshwater zooplankton (LeBlanc, 1980). While effects of polystyrene microplastics were largely ignored by the wider scientific and non-scientific community for many years, considerable attention is given to the environmental impacts of many different types of microplastics today, including polystyrene. Today, our understanding of the environmental impact of PS and other types of plastic is improving. Environmental concerns associated with PS foam include fragmentation degradation of foam, ingestion of particles by fish and wildlife, exposure to chemicals (i.e. styrene, HBCDD), aesthetics of plastic pollution, and recycle challenges. These environmental concerns are outlined in the following sections. Examples of unencapsulated PS foam uses (Rock makers, docks) Daphnia magna Common name: water flea. D. magna is a planktonic crustacean (adult length <1cm) and is an important part of freshwater food webs. This Photo file is licensed under the Creative Commons