Styrofoam Art

Expanded/Extruded Polystyrene Inspiration – (C8H8)n
Styrofoam is a trademark name of Dow Chemical and is ‘extruded’ polystyrene (hard insulation). The white stuff used for packing and coolers is ‘expanded’ polystyrene, but often mistakenly referred to as styrofoam as well.

styrofoam on beach
Nurdle Beach. A nurdle is a pre-production plastic pellet or ground down particles which were formerly larger chunks. Nurdles are a major contributor to marine debris and threaten marine life. Polystyrene (#6) is generally not accepted in curbside collection recycling programs. Due to its light weight it is not economical to collect in its original form. However, if the waste material goes through a compaction process the material changes density, gains weight and becomes a recycable commodity of high value.
Instead of this pollution of nature, let’s create art… Pic, NW California, Ian Butler:

Incredible Styrofoam Art

styrofoam art
Jean DuBuffet, Manoir d’Essor, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. DuBuffet enjoyed creating large scale sculptures out of expanded polystyrene in his later years. Painted with vinyl paint. Pic Source.

styrofoam art
Kathyrn E. Martin, “Knot” (2007) of approximately 40,000 styrofoam cup bottoms. 44″ diameter. Polystyrene degrades very slowly- more than 500 years for a single cup. This sculpture is sure to brings years of enjoyment…

styrofoam cup reuse
Kathyrn E. Martin – Made from thousands of styrofoam cups, stacked one inside the other, and snugged between the gallery’s two walls. 2008, Dimensions 30′ L x 12′ W x 2′ H. The EPA estimates that 25 billion polystyrene cups are thrown out every year.

styrofoam cup reuse
Tara Donovan, Styrofoam Cups & hot glue, 2003. Represented by Pace Gallery. Pic:

styrofoam cup reuse
Tara Donovan, Styrofoam Cups, 2003. Represented by Pace Gallery. Pic:

styrofoam art
David French, three pieces sanded down by hand and left raw. David’s newer pieces are covered in urethane and then auto paint, see: Caution: heating polystyrene creates potentially harmful liquid and gaseous by-products that could contaminate groundwater and air – it is therefore recommended that one compacts it only.

styrofoam art
Kathyrn E. Martin – Flotant, 2008. Rings cut from approximately 50,000 Styrofoam cups hover over the walls and spill onto the gallery floor.

styrofoam art
John Powers, Katrina,

styrofoam art
John Powers, The Terminal,

styrofoam sculpture
The Playing Fields – Styrofoam, plaster, epoxy, 54″x60″x24″ Craig R. Wedderspoon,

styrofoam art
Zaha Hadid Architects, Kartal Pendik Masterplan, Istanbul, Polystyrene with Polyurethane shell and white matte paint finish, Edition of 3 + 2AP. Photography by Bettina Johae, courtesy of Kenny Schachter/ROVE.

polystyrene sculpture
Polystyrene ‘Clouds’ Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Gallery Kreo, Paris,

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Packing, ‘Stargazer’ 2009 by Jason Rogenes. Do check out the other sculptures on Jason’s website. They will inspire you!

styrofoam furniture
Kwangho Lee reclining in one of his styrofoam couches.

styrofoam furniture
Polystyrene Sofa by Edouard Simoens,

styrofoam furniture
Styrofoam Sofa – Kwangho Lee

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Car – Wendover, Utah. Artist, Chris Vorhees.

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Tree by Dio Mendoza, 2005. Represented by:

styrofoam furniture
Styrofoam Furniture by Kwangho Lee,

styrofoam cup reuse
Styrofoam Cups Ceiling Light, 2003 (heat was applied to warp cups) Paul Cocksedge,

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Peanut Ceiling by Cory Wagner,

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Peanut Ceiling Light (Poplight) by Sang Jang Lee. The user assembles the lamp and fills it with peanuts. (Unfortunately the peanuts are included in the box.)

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Vases, ‘Schizoseries’ of Oooms from Eindhoven. Photo Irene Wouters.

styrofoam lamp
Styrofoam containers, plywood, wire and fluorescent bulbs by Rodney Allen Trice

styrofoam art
Tom Friedman (Untitled) Styrofoam and paint,
Inset is who the giant is looking at.

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Dog “Belle Spuma” expanding foam, acrylic and found objects by Jan Clough.

styrofoam art
Styrofoam Mona Lisa By Fabio Viale
This might outlast the original!

Styrofoam Houses

styrofoam house
Expanded Polystyrene House. Futuristic prefab houses from the International Dome House Company are built from segmented slices of expanded polystyrene which they claim to be superior to wood or concrete. Each segmented piece weighs about 175 pounds. It will take three to four people about a week to complete a Dome House. The basic model is about 22 feet in diameter, but separate domes can be added together to make larger buildings. There is also a factory-type structure available. $33,000 for the basic unit.

styrofoam house
Styrofoam House. Several small “villages” of various sizes of the dome houses have been built in Japan, where the design has been approved by the Japanese Ministry of Land and Transport. The company says their expanded polystyrene is made only from carbon and hydrogen, and therefore ‘clean’.

styrofoam house
Inside of a Styrofoam House. Dome House International claims that their homes can last for 300 plus years. I would make sure the polystyrene is not slathered in fire retardants and offgasing chemicals before moving in.

styrofoam fireplace
Styrofoam Fireplace with Balinese wood carving as mantel. Design by Marcia Bivens, Bivens Interiors; constructed by Bernard and Marcia Bivens, Apopka, Florida. On the fireplace Marcia used a latex textured paint; then it was stained with oil-based woodstain. Test the flammability of your finished styrofoam before surrounding a working fireplace. ©Bivens Interiors.

styrofoam moulding

Window surround made from styrofoam packing material. Design by Marcia Bivens, Bivens Interiors; constructed by Bernard and Marcia Bivens, Apopka, Florida. ©Bivens Interiors.

Be Careful When Working With Polystyrene

“If polystyrene is properly incinerated at high temperatures, the chemicals generated are water, carbon dioxide, a complex mixture of volatile compounds, and carbon soot. According to the American Chemistry Council, when polystyrene is incinerated in modern facilities, the final volume is 1% of the starting volume; most of the polystyrene is converted into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and heat. Because of the amount of heat released, it is sometimes used as a power source for steam or electricity generation.

When polystyrene was burned at temperatures of 800–900 °C (the typical range of a modern incinerator), the products of combustion consisted of “a complex mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from alkyl benzenes to benzoperylene. Over 90 different compounds were identified in combustion effluents from polystyrene.”

When burned without enough oxygen or at lower temperatures (as in a campfire or a household fireplace), polystyrene can produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon black, and carbon monoxide, as well as styrene monomers.” From wikipedia.

Polystyrene contains both styrene and benzene, which can leach out when the material comes into contact with hot or oily foods. The risk of the former is uncertain (source), but benzene is a known carcinogen.

According to a 1986 EPA report, polystyrene manufacture is the 5th largest generator of hazardous waste. 57 different chemicals are emitted during the combustion of polystyrene foam.

Global production of polystyrene in 2010 was 15.4 million metric tons.

Expanded polystyrene, may degrade from intense UV light, chemicals and heat. Therefore it needs to be sealed for outdoor use.

Plastic Pollution In Our Seas

Other Uses For Styrofoam

Styrofoam is good as drainage in the bottom of flower pots.

Donate large pieces to a community theater or school.

Find a recycler who compacts polystyrene for reuse.

How To Find Styrofoam

Furniture stores regularly throw away big sheets.

Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.


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  1. And I am soooo proud of my very best friend…Marcia Bivens…and her spouse Bernie. Marcia is the most talented person I’ve ever known. She can do ANYTHING!

  2. What a revelation, awesome, says my mate Bill.

    We never new such things existed, WOW.


    Stuart & Bill, Lake District, England.

  3. This is not a comment but I have a few questions for the writer of the above article. I belong to an Association that is made up polystyrene manufacturers in my country…we basically promote the use of polystyrene, ensure proper management of the waste and aim at putting to rest misconceptions about polystyrene.

    A lot of different sources give conflicting fndings about polystyrene. Is the argument that benzene and styrene leak out when exposed to oily and hot food based on scientific research. To what extend do they cause harm? How much benzene from styrofoam does one has to be exposed to before they can be affected or before it can cause cancer.

    Are there any other source of information where I can get empirical evidence?

    Anyone who can help…please. I would really appreciate it.

    The art is so amazing I have to say. Congratulations to the artists, keep up the good work. SPECTECULAR!!!

    Thank you.

  4. Hi,

    First off, in America polystyrene is ‘rarely’ recycled. That unto itself is a huge problem. When exposed to heat polystyrene emits ‘a complex mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from alkyl benzenes to benzoperylene. Over 90 different compounds were identified in combustion effluents from polystyrene. Combine this with the other 300 plus chemicals coursing through most people’s bodies and you have a chemical cocktail that will not only inflame cancer cells, but create a host of other issues as well, for you and your offspring. Read this:

  5. let me be a volunteer to show Styrofoam homes and furniture on my property in rosenort MB .. a rich community .. who does believe in recycling








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  7. I have a collection of 6 classic aircraft I have designed and constructed from simple styrofoam meat trays as found in grocery markets. Photos available. These planes were on display during the 100th Anniversary of Flight exhibit at the Boulder City Library in Nevada. The idea for the models was inspired from NASA’s Glen Research Center website on how to build a model of the 1902 Wright Flyer glider. Regards, Don Bruno

  8. good day , i am a young Nigerian architect , i have gone through the art work you did with eps,, i know about it , i will like to work with u to expand my knowlage with polystyrene artwork,, and to start working with it in Africa , because we have a large market for building construction her,

    i will be happy and ready to work with u if my request is favorably granted.

  9. What an incredible feat to transform toxic waste into eerily other-worldly art. In particular the enormous sculptures are intimidating by their sheer size, yet they retain an elegant ethereal beauty. Thank you all for bring these sculptures to life.

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