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A New Eco-friendly Alternative to Foam Core

Written By Bobby Firestein

April 20, 2023

Foam core, also known as foam board, is a popular material used for everything from crafting to construction. At More Vang, our clients often use it for indoor event signage, easel-back posters, and kiss-cut lettering. While printing on foam core can be a cost-effective choice, it has a dark side when it comes to its environmental impact, especially with short-term, temporary use. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as eco-friendly foam core.

Foam core is a polystyrene foam layer usually sandwiched between brown Kraft or clay-coated (white) paper. The combination of these materials gives us a lightweight board that prints well and is easy to cut. But the polystyrene layer that makes foam boards sturdy also makes them nonrecyclable. 

The Downsides of Foam Core

It takes a piece of foam core over 500 years to fully decompose in a landfill. That’s right, your 5th-great-grandchild will live to see the day your wayfinding signage finally found its way into oblivion. But during that time, it breaks down into small plastic particles that contaminate the soil, making it unfit for agriculture. These toxins also make their way into our water sources through groundwater and runoff. You’ve likely heard about the dangers of microplastics in our drinking water. This is one of the ways they get there.

Foam core pollutes the air as well by releasing harmful fumes when exposed to heat. This can be especially dangerous in enclosed spaces or if the foam core is not properly ventilated. It’s known to also release small amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through off-gassing. VOCs are chemicals that can be harmful to human health, especially when inhaled over long periods of time. 

Finally, because foam core is highly flammable, it’s often treated with a flame retardant known as HBCD. This hazardous chemical compound is known to cause reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects. In fact, the European Union considered HBCD dangerous enough to ban its use in 2015.

Recycle Your Signage With Eco-Board

If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to foam core, try our new house brand Eco-Board. It’s made from sustainable materials, so it’s completely recyclable. The best part? Eco-Board is comparably priced to foam core, making it better for both the environment and your bottom line.

  • Zero plastics—made from wood, water, and starch, 30 percent of which comes from post-industrial waste. 
  • 100% recyclable.
  • Weighs less than traditional foam core, making shipping easier and more fuel efficient.
  • Free of any harsh chemicals—no harmful fumes.
  • Competitively priced to foam core.

The Eco-Board comes in all-white matte, brown Kraft, and white matte with a brown Kraft core. All three options feature a fully recyclable, open paper honeycomb core, as opposed to the nonrecyclable foam core you see on foam boards.

Eco-Board is shown on top with foam core underneath

To compare the print quality, we ran a test print on both the Eco-Board and foam core. For the purpose of this test, we used the white Eco-Board with the brown Kraft core.

We found that the Eco-Board reproduces just as well as foam core. And given the sustainability of the material, Eco-Board makes a good alternative for businesses looking to lower their carbon footprint without breaking the bank.

If you’re interested in learning more about Eco-Board or getting a quote for an upcoming project, drop us a line.