peer-reviewed study found commonly used cups, plates and sandwich containers made of polystyrene foam use significantly less energy and water than comparable paper-based or corn-based (polylactic: PLA) alternatives, primarily due to polystyrene foam's much lower weight.

The foam polystyrene foodservice products create significantly less solid waste by weight than alternatives, according to the study, and comparisons by volume vary widely. Greenhouse gas emission comparisons vary widely based on uncertainties over whether paper-based products degrade after disposal.

Life-Cycle Studies

All manufacturing processes have both inputs and outputs. A life-cycle inventory (LCI) involves the collection and quantification of inputs and outputs for a given product system throughout its full life cycle. Life-cycle studies typically examine criteria such as energy use, emissions from air and water and waste generation during the course of raw-materials extraction, manufacturing, transportation, use and end-of-life management (e.g., recycling or disposal).

A life-cycle approach to evaluating environmental impacts helps manufacturers understand how their choices influence what happens at each stage of a product’s life so they can make informed decisions that can help reduce overall burdens to the environment. In this regard, life-cycle studies are an essential source of information for government, scientists, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

The American Chemistry Council supports the use of life-cycle approaches for assessing environmental performance, evaluating trade-offs and making informed decisions. For more information on life cycle please visit the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA).

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