With the ever-increasing awareness of the issues of plastic pollution, an array of alternatives are springing up, all claiming to be the ideal solution. There has been a huge increase in the number of silicone products hitting the supermarket shelves. So......how eco-friendly is silicone? Let us shed some light on the subject.
What is silicone & how is it made?
Time for a science lesson! It’s probably helpful at this point to clarify that we are talking about SILICONE and not SILICON here.
SILICON is the 14th element of the periodic table and is a component of silica, one of the most prevalent substances on earth. SILICON in its elemental form is found in bricks, glass, and concrete as silica. In enamels, pottery and ceramics it is found as silicate.
SILICONES are synthetic polymers made of silicon, oxygen, and other elements - most commonly carbon and hydrogen. Silicone is manufactured using petroleum and natural gas. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining these hydrocarbons can have an environmental impact. To counterbalance this, however, silicone is extremely durable and long-lasting, and if you look after silicone products well, they should last a lot longer than plastic alternatives. Evidently, if you choose a product with a longer life, the environmental impact will be less.
There’s no doubt that using products with a longer lifespan is much better for the environment in the long term.
How durable is silicone?
One of the key benefits of silicone is its durability. As an example, when used in bakeware, it can be heated to (-55 to 300 degrees Celsius).
Provided you’ve chosen good quality silicone, it will be:
Given the above attributes, silicone is becoming commonly seen amongst kitchen and cookware offerings. Cake molds, mixing spoons, and now silicone straws are all amongst items you could consider as a plastic alternative. We compared alternatives to plastic straws, including silicone straws here.
Is it recyclable?
The short answer is yes. But kerbside recycling rarely accepts post-consumer silicone. Terracycle schemes are usually the most easily accessible, although you may need to club together as a group to make this a cost-effective option.
Does silicone break down in landfill?
Unlike plastic, silicone does not break down into small pieces, so does not produce the microplastic phenomenon that is so harmful to wildlife. One of the reasons why silicone is considered to be a good alternative to plastic is because it doesn’t contain the harmful chemicals we’ve become aware of that linger in plastic items, such as phthalates and BPA.
Overall, in comparison with plastic, silicone offers a longer-lasting, more durable, and certainly more sustainable option.