Is Silicone a Good alternative to Plastic?

We are getting many questions from customers who are wondering if silicone is a safe alternative to plastic products. The plastic industry puts them in the same category as plastics, and so do we. However, over the past few years, we have witnessed many "green" companies claiming to offer 100% "plastic-free" products that are 100% made of silicone as if silicone was a safer alternative for the environment. Is it really? Let's stop for a moment and compare silicone with plastic on two important aspects:

Compostability / Recyclability

Silicone is definitely not compostable and while not all plastics are recyclable, at least some of them have a good recyclability rate such as PETE (#1), HDPE (#2) and PP (#5). Silicone, on the other hand, has a very low recyclability rate and is not likely to be picked up by your local municipal recycling program. You likely would have to take it to a specialized private recycling facility. Such specialized recycling companies will typically down-cycle it into oil used as lubricant for industrial machines. So plastic seems a better option on this count than silicone.

Safety to Human Health and the environment

Just like plastics, silicones are not completely inert or chemically unreactive and can release toxic chemicals. They can leach certain synthetic chemicals at low levels, and the leaching is increased with fatty substances, such as oils. Probably best to limit contact with food. Moreover, silicones do not degrade naturally in te environment and are likely to stick around for a very long time, just like plastics.

So what is the big hype about silicones?

We've devoted to the topic of silicone several sections of our book, LIFE WITHOUT PLASTIC: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy (see pp. 51-53, 105-106, 118, 142) and we've also published an information article on the topic that you can find on this website.

Some of our products contain silicone parts for airtightness. We try to limit the contact with food or drinks and ensure the silicone is of good quality and when possible, we use clear silicone that does not contain colour pigment additives.

Let us know if you have any questions about the use of silicone on our products.