What are Styrofoam&Trade; Balls?

J. Beam

Styrofoam™ balls are a trademarked product of the Dow Chemical Company. Styrofoam™ is extruded polystyrene foam and while a trade name, it is often mistakenly used as the generic term for any polystyrene foam. Styrofoam™ was developed by the Dow Chemical Company in the 1940s and has been used to create a number of products and applications. Styrofoam™ balls are just one type of Styrofoam™ product, which are mostly used for craft projects.

Styrofoam balls are not the same as the static-producing balls that are used to fill some beanbags.
Styrofoam balls are not the same as the static-producing balls that are used to fill some beanbags.

Styrofoam™ balls are spherical forms of polystyrene foam that come in sizes from one inch (2.54 cm) to eight inches (20.3 cm) in diameter. The crafting purposes of Styrofoam™ balls are largely varied. They are sturdy and can be cut to fit a project or can be used in conjunction with other Styrofoam™ shapes, such as blocks, cones, or rings to accomplish a variety of dimensional projects.

Examples of craft ideas for which Styrofoam™ balls are commonly used include science fair planetariums and other projects, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday decorations, and artificial floral arrangements. There are, however, a plethora of other projects that could be created using Styrofoam™ balls and other shapes.

For crafting purposes, Styrofoam™ has many beneficial characteristics. It can be painted with acrylic craft paint, but do not use solvent-based paints and only use spray paints that specify use on foam. Styrofoam™ balls and other shapes are easily cut with a serrated or craft knife to modify for sculpting. The sturdy construction of Styrofoam™ makes it easy to insert craft picks securely. Gluing is best done with a low-temperature glue gun.

Styrofoam™ balls are not the same as other common polystyrene foam products, such as the little static-producing balls used to fill some beanbags and stuffed animals, or the “peanut” shaped packing material used for shipping. Nor is it the same material used in the manufacturing of disposable plates and cups. In the generic use of the term, Styrofoam has gotten a bad rap for its undesirable environmental impact as a non-biodegradable product. However, the Dow Chemical Company states that their genuine Styrofoam™ products are made from recycled extruded polystyrene and their Styrofoam™ balls and other shaped products can be recycled.

To recycle Styrofoam™, simply remove all attached materials, such as floral picks and fabrics, and place them with other recyclable plastics.

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