Air Quality: Ozone Depletion & Global Warming

Ozone Depletion and Blowing Agent Conversion

During manufacturing, plastic foam insulation uses blowing agents to help expand the foam and give it many of the excellent physical properties that it possesses. These blowing agents are many and varied depending on the type of foam (expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, polyisocyanurate) and the end use (insulation, floral and craft market, marine buoyancy, etc.).

For decades, there has been a growing concern that certain types of blowing agents, especially those know as CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, caused damage to the Earth’s ozone layer, the protective layer of atmosphere that helps shield us from harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, manufacturers of foam insulation stopped using CFC blowing agents and started using materials called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). This conversion from CFCs to HCFCs reduced the amount of material potentially present for ozone layer depletion by more than 90% from the manufacture of foam plastic insulation.

By 2010, XPSA member companies will undergo another blowing agent conversion. This is because HCFC blowing agents will no longer be available for use in foam plastic insulation per Montreal Protocol deadlines. There are no immediate technically-feasible replacement materials available for this conversion as was the case during the switch from CFCs to HCFCs in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Research on alternative blowing agents has been in progress for quite a few years and is focusing on retention of R-value and other existing physical properties of XPS products.

Global Warming

Global warming, sometimes referred to as global climate change, is one of the most debated environmental concerns of our time. The continuing increase in greenhouse gas concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere is a cause for concern and the XPSA believes in the importance of taking reasonable and well thought out action to reduce these emissions.

There are two ways in which XPSA member companies are committed to reducing atmospheric emissions that contribute to global warming.

The first is to minimize the emissions associated with our products. This is being achieved by reducing the energy consumption within our plants and by creating climate-neutral (or better) product solutions for our customers.

The second is to provide quality insulation products that will help reduce energy usage in buildings. This benefits the environment by reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and reduces CO2 emissions from the use of fossil fuels for heating. CO2 is a key gas implicated in global climate change.




About XPSA

The Extruded Polystyrene Foam Association (XPSA) is a trade association representing manufacturers of Extruded Polystyrene Foam (XPS) insulation products and the industry's raw material suppliers. XPSA members collectively manufacture more than 95% of all XPS destined for use in the North American market. XPSA promotes the benefits that accrue to society from appropriate use of XPS foam insulation applications.

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