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In the early 1940s, Dow invented a process for extruding polystyrene to achieve a closed cell foam that resists moisture. In recognition of its insulating properties, buoyancy and "unsinkability," it was originally adopted in 1942 by the Coast Guard for use in a six-man life raft. Styrofoam can be used for building materials including insulated sheathing, pipe insulation and floral and craft products. Styrofoam insulation has been used in many notable buildings and facilities in North America.  The Dow product can be identified by its distinctive blue color.
Styrofoam can be used underneath roads and other structures to prevent soil disturbances due to seasonal freeze-thaw cycles.
The word styrofoam is sometimes misused by the general public in the United States and Canada as a generic term to indicate polystyrene foam, such as coffee cups, cooler or packaging material, which are typically white in color and are made of expanded polystyrene beads.
Insulation decreases the energy requirements to heat or cool dwellings, hence the use of Styrofoam or other building insulation materials is environmentally beneficial, although when its useful life is over, its degradation in nature may take several hundred years. Styrofoam is rarely recycled because it is usually not cost effective.
The use of expanded polystyrene foam in disposable items such as foodservice packaging has been banned by a number of locations. A more detailed description of these activities can be found in the article on Polystyrene.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Styrofoam". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.