News Analysis

Dow Styrofoam Cradle to Cradle Certified, Despite Chemistry

Dow Chemical's Styrofoam extruded polystyrene has been awarded Cradle-to-Cradle Silver certification by MBDC, despite some questionable environmental characteristics.

In a surprising development, Dow Chemical’s Styrofoam brand extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation has been awarded Cradle to Cradle Silver certification by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). When asked about the styrene chemistry and brominated flame retardant in XPS, Steve Bolton, the manager of business development at MBDC, explained that the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) product evaluation is the same for every product. “We look at everything from material health to recyclability,” he told EBN, adding that the company also examines energy use at the manufacturing plant, water quality issues, and corporate social responsibility.

As for brominated flame retardants, Bolton said that these chemicals “are definitely a concern,” but that at the lower certification levels (Basic and Silver) these compounds can be present, as long as there are plans to improve the products over time. (XPS contains the brominated flame retardant HBCD—see EBN Aug. 2009.) At the Gold level, red-listed chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants, are not permitted, according to Bolton.

Published February 1, 2010