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Go greener and save some too: 7 reasons CO2 is a better extrusion foaming agent

Posted by Jim Stanley | May 10, 2017 5:04:58 PM | Plastics


Still using hydrocarbons or other petrochemicals in your extrusion foaming process to make food packaging and takeout containers, foam boards or mattresses? It’s time to think greener – from an environmental AND a cost-saving perspective.

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Hydrofluorocarbons such as pentane or isobutene typically have been the foaming agent of choice for making high or low-density extruded polystyrene or polyurethane products. They’re safer for the environment than their chlorofluorocarbon predecessors, and effective in achieving the desired end results.

The downside: cost and flammability. And though they’re less damaging than CFCs, they’re also still considered ozone depleting substances. In October 2016, more than 170 UN member countries, including the U.S., agreed to voluntary reduce their consumption of HFCs in an effort to slow global warming.

An alternative foaming agent that is gaining acceptance and beginning to replace all or a portion of current hydrocarbon based products is carbon dioxide. It provides similar and consistent cellular structure in the final products, no matter whether it’s polystyrene, polyethylene or polypropylene at a lower cost than hydrocarbon foaming agents. And because CO2 is inert, flammability concerns are eliminated.

In many manufacturing processes, CO2 has emerged as the chemical foaming agent of choice for several reasons:

1. Excellent solubility in polymer solutions
2. Environmentally responsible:
         -- No ozone depleting substances
         -- Minimal global warming potential
         -- CO2 captured and recycled from existing waste stream
3. Low gas consumption due to high degree of foaming
4. Lower cost versus HFCs
5. Non-toxic
6. Non-flammable
7. No chemical residues left behind

Want to learn more about how using CO2 as a foaming agent? Click here

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