Here are some questions that many people ask over and over:
- “Is Styrofoam microwave proof?”
- “Can I heat up my food in Styrofoam containers in the microwave oven?”
Indeed, Styrofoam containers (cups, plates, food boxes etc) are everywhere so we really understand the concern of many people if its ok to put them in a microwave oven.
Can I put Styrofoam Cups, Plates, Boxes in Microwave?
In most cases, the quick and short answer for the questions above is that you should NOT put Styrofoam in Microwave.
However, there are containers that have a label on them (e.g “Microwave Safe” or other relevant marking) that actually can be used to heat food in them.
Styrofoam is nothing but a type of plastic. And plastic doesn’t play well with the microwave. Therefore, if you are not sure, then don’t put it into the microwave unless there is special marking on the container that it is safe to do so.
The actual problem with Styrofoam in microwave is that the food inside might get too hot and will actually melt the foam of the container. The waves of the oven do not actually melt the container. Its the heated food inside that will actually melt the Styrofoam.
Let’s now see some more information about this type of plastic and how you can handle it safely.
Table Of Contents
What is Styrofoam?
Commonly being used as disposable food or water container (food box, cup, plate etc), Styrofoam is nothing but expanded version of polystyrene (EPS). There is another type of Styrofoam, called also the “Blue Board”, and is mainly used for industrial purposes such as in insulation for buildings.
The latter type (industrial version) was an invention made by the Dow Chemical Company in 1947. They trademarked this invention of their proprietary process for the well-known polystyrene foam and created a branded product with name ‘Styrofoam’.
Styrofoam is very lightweight since it consists of 95% air only. Yes! 95%. You could imagine how lightweight it is. It is a petroleum-based material which also consists of benzene and styrene, a few of the harmful chemicals.
How is it used?
Styrofoam indeed has a variety of uses in today’s time since its very cheap and very inexpensive to manufacture compared to its alternative cups and containers. And this adaptable material is pretty popular for many products since it is commonly used for making a lot of things such as:
One of the most popular use-cases of this material is in the packaging industry. Right from packing peanuts and freshly baked cakes to those custom-shaped packaging which fits the contours of computers or other electronic devices, Styrofoam can be used. Let it be holding fragile or expsnsive equipment, it is reliable. This is because it offers a high level of padding and protection as well.
Being used in the form of insulation is another popular way of using it. Sheets of Styrofoam are used to keep your house warm by insulating the floors, walls, pipes, and roof of all kinds of buildings. Providing a barrier for sound and protecting one from the external climate is possible as well.
Styrofoam is used for different crafting purposes and other household purposes. If you’ve ever had a younger sibling or been a mom, you’d for sure have helped your child with school projects from making a model on the solar system or the irrigation system. Since Styrofoam is available in many unique shapes and sizes, it can be accompanied with craft supplies like paint, beads, fabric etc.
What are the types of Styrofoam containers?
At the basic level, there are two prominent types of Styrofoam containers. One which is microwavable and the other one which cannot be put in the microwave. There’s a simple and common hack to determine the difference between the two by these three factors:
- Logo – There is a possibility of finding a logo on the box which would mostly be in the symbol of a microwave. However, if you find an X on it, don’t put it in the microwave.
- Packaging – The packaging can speak a thousand words. If it doesn’t specify anything, the best option is to assume you cannot microwave it.
- Thickness- The thicker the material, the less likely it is to catch fire.
How long can you put Styrofoam in the microwave?
Of course the above depends if the type of container allows you to heat-up food in it.
It’s usually assumed that it’s the microwave that melts the styrofoam but hey! It is the food. Make sure the temperature doesn’t go beyond 175 degrees because if the food goes over 175 degrees, it will melt some of the packaging. At times, you may not be able to see this melting through the bare eye. But remember, the more packaging that is melted, the safety of the food is questionable.
How does it affect the environment?
Only in U.S, the country as a whole uses polystyrene cups which sum up to almost 18 million miles of Styrofoam cups!
The recycling of this material is another debatable issue. Sanitation department announced that the expanded polystyrene cannot be recycled, despite the fact that most of the containers indicate the recycling symbol.
However, in 2015 researchers discovered that mealworms could digest Styrofoam subsequently. The droppings of the mealworms were also found safe for use as soil for crops.
Moreover, the lightweight Styrofoam is easily carried away by wind and often ends up in places other than the landfill. And even if it ends up in the landfill, it releases methane gases which have 20 times the power to destroy the ozone layer protecting us.