Can you microwave styrofoam?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Can you microwave styrofoam?” and provide information on what exactly is styrofoam, tips to heat food, whether you can recycle styrofoam as well as alternatives to them.

Can you microwave styrofoam?

No, you cannot microwave styrofoam. This is because there is a compound called styrene present in styrofoam. Styrene present in styrofoam has been linked to a variety of cancers. Apart from this, if foods are heated in styrofoam, plastic can leak onto food due to heat.

Foods that are warm, greasy, or contain high-fat levels like meat or cheese can cause this to occur.

Usually, the Food and Drug Administration checks the safety of styrofoam containers or plastic cups and containers in ovens. Such containers, cups, and plates can be labeled as microwave-safe.

However, styrofoam cups and containers that are not labeled as microwave-safe should not be microwaved. Such styrofoam utensils should not be exposed to any form of heat.

What exactly is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam refers to a brand that prepares utensils or kitchenware from extruded polystyrene foam. Styrofoam is produced by a company named Dow chemicals.

Styrofoam cups and containers are very cheap. It can keep foods warm for a longer time. As a result, it can appear useful to many. However, it has been banned in certain areas of the US because of its association with cancer or other health issues.

What are some tips to heat food?

  • You have to use a microwave-safe container to heat food. If you wish to use a plastic or a styrofoam container, look around to see whether it has a microwave-safe label.
  • Shift foods to a glass or ceramic container before you heat them. This can prevent chemicals from leaching into food.
  • Shift foods into a pan or a pot and heat foods on a stove. You can also transfer foods into a baking tray and then heat them in an oven.
  • Even if your styrofoam containers are marked as microwave-safe, it is imperative to check for potential cracks or scratches. This is because it is likely to leech chemicals that can get into food.
  • Use mittens or gloves to remove containers from the oven. This will prevent you from burning your hands.
  • Do not use plastic-based material to cover foods while it is being heated. Instead, use wax or parchment paper. This is because plastic is likely to melt.
  • Styrofoam cups or containers can be kept in the fridge for storage (especially if they contain perishable food items like yogurt or ice cream) but they cannot be heated in a microwave.

Can you recycle styrofoam?

Yes, you can recycle styrofoam. Styrofoam is shipped to a recycling center and melted. Once melted, it can be shaped into pellets and blocks. It is then made into a new product. Even though it sounds easy, recycling styrofoam can be a bit difficult and expensive.

As a result, many individuals prefer to dump them or burn them. However, burning can produce gasses that are harmful to the environment. Burying or dumping them is not a solution either as styrofoam can remain in the soil for years or even forever!

What are some alternatives to styrofoam?

  • PLA (Polylactic Acid) cups or materials can be used instead of styrofoam. PLA can withstand temperatures ranging from 32 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. PLA cannot be used in a microwave or oven but you can store warm or cold foods in them.

Besides, Polylactic Acid is a resin that comes from plants. This makes PLA more biodegradable. PLA also prevents cups or other materials from becoming soggy and acts like a protective covering over paper cups.

  • Bagasse and molded fiber can be combined to make plates, cups, containers, or bowls. It can sustain temperatures between 0 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. These products do not hold grease and are particularly environmentally friendly.

Bagasse is prepared from leftover sugarcane or sugar-based goods whereas molded fiber can be obtained from leftover paper or cardboard.

  • Aluminum can be another material that could be used to microwave styrofoam. Aluminum can stand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. However, do not use them in the microwave.

Unlike Styrofoam, aluminum can withstand grease. It also has insulation properties and can keep food warm for a longer time.

  • Mineral-filled polypropylene (MFPP) can be prepared from minerals. It can be used in a microwave. MFPP can sustain temperatures up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. They can come in many colors and sizes too. It is grease and liquid-resistant.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Can you microwave styrofoam?” and provided information on what exactly is styrofoam, tips to heat food, whether you can recycle styrofoam as well as alternatives to them.


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