Last Updated: August 15th, 2023

Traditional Plastic Cooler Vs. Polystyrene Cooler [Compared]

Traditional Plastic Cooler Vs. Polystyrene Cooler [Compared]

When it comes to keeping our food and beverages cool, there are various options available in the market. Two popular choices are traditional plastic coolers and polystyrene coolers. Both serve the purpose of maintaining the temperature of the contents inside, but they differ in terms of insulation capabilities, durability, portability, environmental impact, and cost.

Traditional Plastic Cool Box Vs. A Polystyrene Cool Box

What is a traditional plastic cooler boxes?

A traditional plastic cooler is typically made of hard plastic materials and is designed to provide insulation and keep the contents cold.

These cooler boxes often come with a lid that locks tightly to prevent the cold air from escaping and warm air from entering. They are commonly used for outdoor activities such as camping, picnics, and road trips.

Advantages of a traditional plastic cooler box

Traditional plastic coolers offer several advantages.

Firstly, they are generally more affordable compared to other types of cooler boxes.

Secondly, they are widely available in various sizes and shapes, making it easier to find one that suits your specific needs. Additionally, these coolers are relatively easy to clean and maintain, as most of them are made of durable materials that can withstand regular use.

Disadvantages of a traditional plastic cooler

However, traditional plastic coolers have some drawbacks. One major disadvantage is their insulation capabilities. Plastic coolers tend to have less effective insulation, which means they may struggle to maintain low temperatures for extended periods.

This can result in the contents inside getting warmer faster, especially in hot weather conditions. Moreover, plastic cooler boxes are often bulkier and heavier than other alternatives, which can make them less convenient to carry around.

What is a polystyrene cooler box?

A polystyrene cooler box, also known as a foam cooler, is made from expanded polystyrene foam. This type of cooler box is lightweight and offers excellent insulation properties. It is commonly used for transporting perishable goods, medical supplies, and even as packaging for fragile items.

Advantages of a polystyrene cooler box

Polystyrene coolers have several advantages.

Firstly, they provide superior insulation compared to traditional plastic coolers. The insulating properties of the foam help maintain lower temperatures for a longer duration, keeping the contents cooler for an extended period.

Secondly, polystyrene cooler boxes are lightweight, making them easier to carry and transport. This makes them a popular choice for outdoor activities and events.

Disadvantages of a polystyrene cooler box

However, polystyrene cooler boxes also have some drawbacks. One major concern is their durability.

While the foam itself is relatively sturdy, it is more prone to damage than hard plastic coolers. Rough handling or accidental impacts can lead to dents or even cracks in the foam. Additionally, polystyrene coolers are not as widely available as plastic coolers, and they may be more expensive.

Comparison between the traditional plastic cooler and polystyrene cooler box

AttributeTraditional Plastic Cooler BoxPolystyrene Cooler Box
MaterialMade from hard plastic, often with metal or plastic handlesMade from polystyrene foam
DurabilityGenerally more durable due to hard plastic constructionLess durable as it can be easily damaged or broken
InsulationGood insulation, but varies by model and brandExcellent insulation due to the nature of polystyrene
WeightTypically heavier due to the weight of the plasticTypically lighter due to the lightness of polystyrene
Environmental ImpactCan be more environmentally friendly if made from recycled plastic and if it’s recyclableOften less environmentally friendly as polystyrene is not biodegradable and not always recyclable
CostUsually more expensive than polystyrene cooler boxesUsually less expensive than plastic cooler boxes
LifespanLonger lifespan due to stronger materialShorter lifespan due to weaker material
UseSuitable for frequent and long term useOften used for single-use or short-term purposes due to durability issues

Insulation capabilities

When it comes to insulation capabilities, polystyrene coolers have the upper hand. The foam material used in polystyrene coolers provides better insulation, helping to maintain colder temperatures for a longer period.

On the other hand, traditional plastic coolers may struggle to retain low temperatures for an extended duration, especially in hot weather conditions.


In terms of durability, traditional plastic coolers tend to be more resilient. The hard plastic construction can withstand rough handling and accidental impacts without significant damage. Polystyrene coolers, while lightweight, are more susceptible to dents and cracks if not handled with care.


Polystyrene coolers are lightweight and easier to carry compared to traditional plastic coolers. This makes them ideal for activities where portability is essential, such as hiking or beach trips.

Traditional plastic coolers, on the other hand, maybe bulkier and heavier, making them less convenient to transport over long distances.

Environmental impact

When considering the environmental impact, polystyrene cooler boxes have raised concerns. Expanded polystyrene foam is not easily recyclable and can contribute to pollution if not disposed of properly. Traditional plastic cooler boxes, while not without environmental impact, can be recycled or reused more easily.


In terms of cost, traditional plastic coolers are generally more affordable than polystyrene coolers. The availability of cool plastic boxes in various sizes and brands also contributes to their cost-effectiveness. Polystyrene cooler boxes, being less widely available, may be relatively more expensive.

User Preferences and Considerations

Choosing between a traditional plastic cooler box and a polystyrene cooler box ultimately depends on individual preferences and specific requirements. If insulation capabilities and portability are top priorities, a polystyrene cooler may be the better option.

However, if durability and cost-effectiveness are more important, a traditional plastic cooler may be a suitable choice.


Are polystyrene coolers more expensive than plastic coolers?

Polystyrene coolers are often relatively more expensive than plastic coolers due to factors such as materials and insulation capabilities. However, the exact price may vary depending on the brand and size.

Can a traditional plastic cooler keep ice frozen for a longer time?

Traditional plastic coolers may struggle to maintain low temperatures for an extended period, especially in hot weather conditions. As a result, the ice inside may melt faster than coolers with better insulation, such as polystyrene coolers.

Are polystyrene coolers lightweight?

Yes, polystyrene coolers are generally lightweight due to the foam material used in their construction. This makes them easier to carry and transport compared to heavier plastic coolers.

Can polystyrene coolers withstand rough handling?

While polystyrene coolers are lightweight and provide excellent insulation, they are more susceptible to dents and cracks if not handled carefully. Rough handling or accidental impacts can damage the foam material.

How can I dispose of a polystyrene cooler in an environmentally friendly manner?

Proper disposal of polystyrene coolers is important to minimize environmental impact. Check with your local recycling facilities to see if they accept polystyrene foam for recycling. Alternatively, some organizations or specialized recycling centers may offer recycling programs specifically for polystyrene foam.


When it comes to choosing between a traditional plastic cooler and a polystyrene cooler, it’s essential to consider factors such as insulation capabilities, durability, portability, environmental impact, and cost. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, and the decision should be based on individual needs and preferences.

Whether you opt for the affordability and durability of a traditional plastic cooler box or the superior insulation and lightweight design of a polystyrene cooler box, both options can serve you well in keeping your food and beverages cool during outdoor adventures.

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