Is Silicone an Eco-Friendly Material?

Is silicone eco-friendly? It’s the question on everyone’s lips as this convenient material features in adhesives, electronics and personal care products. Most notably, silicone is the substance used in most bakeware and cookware products made popular by its ability to be kept in the fridge, freezer or oven without changing its properties. Silicone utensils are less likely to scratch your pan and do a great job of smoothing out cake icing and brushing on butter. Despite how functional silicone products can be, none of this matters to environmental activists — we included — who care about the impact of their kitchen stocklist.

Is Silicone Eco-Friendly? Answered in Less Than 100 Words

Silicone isn’t the most environmentally friendly material on the market. Why? To produce silicone uses hydrocarbons from petroleum. It’s less than angelic start makes silicone difficult to recycle as most facilities don’t accept it. With that said, silicone is a better alternative to plastic — it’s just not the best. As a more robust material, silicone tends to have a longer lifespan than plastic and from a safety point of view, silicone is less likely to leach chemicals into other items such as food.

Why Choose Silicone over Plastic

Silicone beats plastic from both an environmental and health perspective. In terms of health, silicone is a safe bet for families looking to reduce plastic use in their household. It’s no secret that doctors have listed plastic containers — especially for food storage — as dangerous, containing harmful chemicals like bisphenol-A.

But wait, what is silicone? Is silicone plastic? Most people wonder what silicone is made of, if not plastic since it replicates the material in terms of strength, application and texture. Silicone is actually made from silica — a substance found in sand. It’s this silica that makes silicone so durable and able to withstand extreme temperatures. If you have a silicone product in your kitchen, it will boast the ability to withstand minus temperatures inside your freezer and boiling temperatures during cooking. Silicone won’t melt, contort or contaminate its contents. Neither will plastic — yet Silicone is also better for the environment.

Let’s be clear here — the production of silicone isn’t necessarily superior to plastic. Resources such as petroleum are burnt to form silicone. However, it’s the long-lasting effects of plastic after disposal that make silicone come out on top. Silicone isn’t biodegradable, but it is less likely to break down and be discarded after fewer uses than plastic. The hope is that with silicone, you can get more use than you do with plastic. You can use silicone containers over and over without noticing scratches, breaks or discolouration. The result is fewer materials are thrown out, leaving less trash in circulation. Remember — this rubbish ends up in natural water, trapped in the oceans infecting marine life for thousands of years. But make no mistake,  silicone will do the same thing given a chance.

Silicone is similar to the PLA bioplastics we use in some of our takeaway packaging products. They share the same commercial recycling process where the material needs to be exposed to high temperatures to revert to its natural elements. This means silicone can be decomposed of or recycled on an individual level — but when throwing out silicone products, you’ll need to be careful you’re placing them in the right trash where they go to specialist facilities. If they reach these facilities, silicone won’t take too much time to decompose. Small items can decompose within a single session and larger items can take a few sessions to disintegrate. Like plastic, if silicone isn’t disposed of correctly, they will take a lifetime to decompose.

What’s Better Than Silicone?

Perhaps the only superior alternative to silicone around the home is glass. Glass boasts the same benefits as silicone, avoiding chemical contamination and surviving severe temperatures, yet is highly recyclable. However, it also uses oil within its production process, making it an imperfect solution. Yet individuals will find glass containers useful, as there is no need to continually purchase new ones after a few months of wear and tear.

With so many household containers posing some environmental threat, is it worth having food storage at all? Like the plastic bags debate, people must pick the lesser of two evils — using cotton, which has a complex manufacturing process, rather than plastic, to increase the lifespan of their carrier.

Yes, you should still have some element of storage within your home to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Having temporary storage allows you to avoid plastics in the supermarket by packaging directly into your own containers and prevents food waste as you can preserve leftovers in the fridge.

Frankly, the uses of silicone are plentiful, but its environmental image is less than perfect. Good old-fashioned glass is the only component that beats this versatile material due to its wide acceptance within councils as a highly recyclable element.

Looking for a temporary takeaway packaging material? Unfortunately, silicone and glass aren’t suitable. That’s where we come in. Browse our online store which is packed full of planet-friendly products made from materials like Kraft board and sugarcane to keep takeaways sustainable too.