You Know Styrene – A resource for consumers, employees and communities

The Styrene You Know: Uses and Benefits

Over half of all styrene becomes polystyrene—a plastic which comes in several forms, including solid products, foams and films. Source[1]
A Multitude of Uses

Styrene is essential in the creation of many products that we use every day. A few of the most familiar uses of styrene include:

  • Solid and film polystyrene, used in rigid foodservice containers, CD cases, appliance housings, envelope windows and many other products.
  • Polystyrene foam, used in food service products and building insulation.
  • Composite products, used in tub and shower enclosures, automobile body panels, wind turbine parts, boats and many other applications.

Other styrene-based materials include:

  • ABS plastic, used in refrigerator liners, medical devices, small household appliances and luggage.
  • SAN plastic, used for food containers and optical fibers.
  • SB Rubber (SBR), which reduces dependence on natural rubbers and provides improved performance in applications such as vehicle tires, leading to improved fuel efficiency.
  • SB Latex (SBL) used in many paper coatings and in more than 90% of the broadloom carpeting made in the United States to attach carpet fibers to a backing material.

Strength, Durability, Comfort, Safety

Styrene is so widely used today because it enables a multitude of products to deliver many benefits that are highly valued by consumers. These benefits include strength, durability, comfort and safety. For example, styrene-based products cushion bicycle helmets, strengthen military armor, create wind power turbines, reduce coal plant emissions, and enhance components that make cars and trains lighter and more fuel-efficient. They also enable manufacturing high-performance and cost-effective recreational products such as boats and other watercraft, and reduce dependence on costly natural resources such as tropical hardwoods used in boats and marble and granite used in homes and buildings.


Whenever you taste a cinnamon bun or strawberry shortcake, you are enjoying the sweetness of naturally occurring styrene. In addition to being made commercially for hundreds of important uses, styrene occurs naturally in certain foods, such as strawberries, cinnamon, beef, coffee beans and nuts. It is also found naturally in other foods and beverages, including cheese, wine and beer. It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits polystyrene plastic containers—made from styrene—for food-contact uses.