When you need to ship something that needs to stay cool, you probably know that using a Styrofoam cooler is your best bet. Do you know why, though? Whether you are shipping food that needs to be kept cool to stay fresh or you are sending a live reptile, you need temperature-controlled packaging to ensure that the shipment arrives safely.
Much like wrapping up in layers of clothing helps you stay warm during cold weather, Styrofoam keeps items cool by insulating them against heat. Let’s take a closer look at the science behind a Styrofoam cooler.
What Is Styrofoam?
Let’s start with the basics. Styrofoam is the trademarked name for polystyrene foam. This petroleum-based plastic is lightweight and serves as an effective insulator. As such, it does a great job of keeping heat out of things like coolers. Because it is relatively firm, it also helps provide a degree of protection for items while in transit from one place to another.
Thermal conductivity refers to a material’s ability to conduct heat. Some materials — especially metals — conduct heat well while others — like Styrofoam — conduct it poorly. Both types are useful in certain circumstances, but when it comes to protecting items in a package from the heat of the outside environment, you need a material that is a poor conductor. This helps keep the cool air inside the package while keeping the hot air out.
How Styrofoam Insulates
Styrofoam is primarily made of air. This makes it a poor conductor of heat but an excellent insulator. The air is trapped in small pockets in the polystyrene, and it blocks the flow of heat. In shipping, a small Styrofoam cooler creates a cold zone within a package that allows heat from the outside in at a very slow rate. This makes it possible to ship frozen and perishable items safely, even when it takes a few days for a package to reach its destination.
While a Styrofoam cooler does a great job of keeping cold items cool for long periods of time, they don’t cool items that are already warm. Therefore, ice or cold packs must be used to cool the inside of the container.
Benefits of Using Styrofoam Coolers
When you need to ship items that are temperature sensitive, Styrofoam coolers are an effective and affordable solution. They are favored by the food service industry because they are less costly than other products and they provide better insulation to keep food fresh longer. Because they are made mostly of air, they are extremely lightweight and don’t drive up shipping costs.
Styrofoam coolers come in numerous sizes. Whether you need a small or a large Styrofoam cooler for shipping, it’s possible to find exactly what you need. From tiny boxes used to ship pharmaceutical products to larger containers that are suitable for fresh meal delivery kits and more, there are different sizes for every application.
Because they are durable and easy to clean, Styrofoam coolers can be used and reused several times. They work just as well for camping or fishing trips as other styles of coolers, and they are great to throw in the back of your car for when you pick up frozen groceries. Compared to other types of coolers, they are extremely affordable and lightweight.
Styrofoam coolers are the perfect solution when you need to ship frozen or perishable items. Their light weight means they won’t significantly increase your shipping costs, and their simple design makes them affordable to purchase. When used with ice or cold packs, they can keep food and other items cold for several days.
It’s important to note, though, that Styrofoam isn’t one of the most environmentally friendly materials. It takes centuries to break down in landfills, so it’s extremely important to recycle your Styrofoam coolers. Many recycling programs accept Styrofoam, and in some instances, shippers will take them back for recycling. You can also reuse your Styrofoam coolers for camping trips, hunting and fishing expeditions, road trips or even backyard barbecues. You may also have some luck offering them for free on a community sales site. There are a lot of people who will gladly take them off your hands to use for their own purposes.