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 an increase of what are described as "plastic-free" products that are made of 100% 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

Like other 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. We prefer to limit the contact of silicone with food. Moreover, silicones do not degrade naturally in the environment and are likely to stick around for a very long time, just like plastics.

We've addressed silicone in several parts 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 in an information article on silicone that you can find on this website.

Some of our products contain silicone parts as seals or gaskets that provide airtightness. We try to limit the contact of the silicone with food or drink, ensuring the silicone is of good quality and when possible a clear silicone that does not contain colour pigment additives.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the use of silicone in our products.