The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (2023)

Plastic foam, or polystyrene, is one of the most commonly used types of plastic due to its low cost, pliable properties, and ability to create its lightweight counterpart EPS (Styrofoam). Its many desirable performance attributes, such as heat tolerance and retention, as well as its low cost, have made it the container of choice for many restaurants and businesses.That is, until recently.

Consumers are increasingly aware of foam's negative impact on the environment and human health and are demanding more sustainable options. As a result, state and local bans and regulations have been enacted to reduce the use of polystyrene products.

Regulations, legal pressures, customer demands and the trend towards sustainability are requiring companies that use Styrofoam gastronomic products to find more sustainable options.

Look at thisMap of where styrofoam bans are taking place.

Under the bans, foodservice establishments will no longer be able to sell, offer or possess single-use foam containers such as ladles, cups, plates, bowls, trays, etc.

As a catering company, you need to find a suitable alternative for your take-away meals or leftovers.

Choosing an alternative to Styrofoam food packaging that works best for you involves many considerations. Your foam alternative needs to be the right combination of price, performance and appearance for your business.

In this blog, we'll go over some of the pros and cons of 6 styrofoam alternatives to help you choose the best ones for your business.

What are some alternatives to Styrofoam foodservice products?

For some, giving up Styrofoam will be an opportunity to become more sustainable. They will look for products that leave a smaller footprint on Earth. But for others, the best alternative is the product that works as similarly as possible, or is simply priced closer to foam.

Keep in mind that the price of any alternative will likely be higher than Styrofoam, but that doesn't mean that alternative substrates can't bring efficiencies to your business. Products that are more environmentally friendly and can be reused, recycled or composted at the end of their life cycle help reduce corporate disposal fees and waste in landfills.

The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (1)

Eco-friendly alternatives to food packaging

Eco-conscious products are made from renewable materials and result in a smaller footprint on Earth due to their low-energy manufacturing processes and end-of-life compostability.

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Eco-friendly materials include:

  • PLA lined paper
  • Bagasse
  • shaped fiber
  • Polypropylene with mineral filling

PLA lined paperThe 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (2)

PLA coated paper is the most sustainable option. PLA stands for polylactic acid and is a resin made from cornstarch. PLA is used to make clear compostable containers. It is also used as a waterproof coating on paper cups and containers to prevent paper from soaking through.

PLA coated paper is suitable for both hot and cold cups or containers.

Temperature range:

Can withstand temperatures between32 and 185 terrible Fahrenheitbefore distortion.

PLA coated paper is notMicrowave or oven safe.

Benefits:The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (3)

PLA-coated paper is made from paperboard coated with polylactic acid, a resin derived from plants, not petroleum.

The plant-based resin acts as a barrier that prevents the paper part of the cup from absorbing liquid and becoming soggy or leaking.(It is leak proof)


PLA lined paperbad heat transfer, causing the outside of the container to become hot.


It is compostable at the end of its useful life.


PLA coated paper is the most expensive of the six alternatives.

Bagasse and Phase Form

The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (4)Two very similar alternatives are bagasse and molded fiber.

Both can be turned into containers, plates and bowls.

Temperature range:

These materials can tolerate temperatures between0 e 250 horrid Fahrenheitwarping and can be safely placed in the microwave.


Bagasse and molded fiber products are grease and cut resistant.

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Both are made using environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Bagasse is made from by-products left over from sugar or wheat extraction. The forming fibers are made from a mixture of recycled cardboard, newsprint and/or corrugated cardboard.The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (5)

Typically beige or white, bagasse and molded fibers offer the most natural alternative to foam.


Have plenty of bagasse and molded fiber trayspoor steam control resulting in wet food.


Both can be composted at the end of life.


Bagasse and molded fibers are cheaper than PLA-coated paper.

Polypropylene with mineral filling

Products made from mineral-filled polypropylene, also known as MFPP, contain an average of 50% less plastic than standard polypropylene, reducing the total amount of plastic needed to manufacture each cup or container.

Instead of plastic, it's made from minerals that help you meet your sustainability goals.

Temperature range:

MFFP is microwave safe and can be used at temperatures between 37 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit.


Mineral-filled polypropylene is excellent for hot and cold foods.

MFPP cups and containers are ideal for on-the-go applications. They are available in a variety of sizes, colors and designs, including:

Available colors:
  • Branco
  • Kraft
  • Schwartz

Please note that MFPP is not available in clear containers as the mineral filler makes the product opaque.

  • articulated
  • Confused
  • square
  • oval
  • Rot
  • rectangle

This material is cut and soak resistant, which prevents liquids or grease from leaking or being absorbed. Not only does this make it a versatile choice for pre-prepared food or serving on the go, it also provides an added level of security for end users.

Most MFPP containers have ventilation holes to prevent flooding.

The MFFP is also very robust, so containers can be stacked.

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MFPP cannot be recycled, making it one of the less eco-friendly choices of sustainable options.


Polypropylene containers filled with minerals are generally not accepted at recycling sites, so they should be landfilled or incinerated where geographically available.


Mineral-filled polypropylene is one of the most economical alternatives to styrofoam. In fact, it is the most cost-effective sustainable alternative.

Other styrofoam alternatives

The next two alternatives areless sustainablethan the options above, but stilleffective substitutesfor foam.

  • Aluminum
  • Polished papel


Aluminum is a thin metal material mainly used for containers.

The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (6)

Temperature range:

Aluminum can withstand temperatures between-20 and 400 terrible Fahrenheit.

Can be frozen and baked, but not microwaved.


aluminum hatbig heat tolerance and restraintasgood fat and fluid control.


aluminum hatsharp edges and lack of external insulationthat may pose potential risks to consumers.


The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (7)Aluminum can be recycled after washing.


Aluminum is the cheapestsixalternatives.

Polished papel

The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (8)Coated poly paper can be used for both hot and cold cups or containers.

Polycoated paper is made from bothflat cardboardorcorrugated cardboard🇧🇷 It can sometimes be made from post-consumer recycled material.

Advantages and disadvantages:

cardboard hasgood thermal insulation and tolerance, but low heat transfer.

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corrugated cardboard

Corrugated cardboard hasgood insulation.Corrugated cardboard is better able to reduce heat transfer from the food or beverage to the outside of the cup or container, reducing the risk of injury to the consumer.

Temperature range:

Withstands temperatures of20 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit distortion🇧🇷 Not oven or microwave safe.


Multicoated paper is not compostable or recyclable at end-of-life.


Poly coated paper is more expensive than aluminum but less expensive than bagasse, molded fiber and PLA coated paper.

*All prices are based on costs at the time of this writing.

final thoughts

Finding a product that meets your business needs is important to your customers' satisfaction and your business success.

Any of these six alternatives can serve as an effective replacement for Styrofoam, depending on the combination of price, performance, and appearance you're trying to achieve.

EBP is dedicated to helping customers make a smooth and successful transition away from foam.

Our foodservice specialists are experts at helping customers navigate and adapt to changing laws and trends.

If you're not sure how new bans and regulations might affect the product you buy for your business, or want to learn more about how to transition away from foam, Let an EBP expert help you.

EBP and other Imperial Dade locations have a wide range of containers to meet your facility's needs, budget and requirements, whether you are located in the United States, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.

To help you better compare some of the foam replacement products, we have aQuick guide:

The 6 Best Styrofoam Alternatives (Pros and Cons) (9)


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