The answer to the query of whether or not silicone is a plastic depends on whom you ask.
When selecting materials for our products, we always conduct extensive research. Silicone has recently been promoted as one of the sustainable alternatives to plastic products, but it may be oversimplification to state that silicone is objectively superior to plastic. In order to create leak-proof Blue Water Bento product closures, we opted for silicone over plastic.
3 BEST QUALITIES OF SILICONE
|1.||Good Chemical Stability|
It can be manufactured as a liquid, a paste, a grease, an oil, or a polymer, and has a wide range of applications in industries including cosmetics, electronics, aviation, and construction. By heating silica (or silicon dioxide) with a carbon-based fuel source, silicon (without the ‘e’ of silicone) is produced. Silicon is found naturally in the earth, but its extraction is difficult, so it is typically manufactured from the more accessible silica (beach sand and quartz are nearly pure silica).
When lost in the environment, silicone does not degrade into microplastics.
What distinguishes silicone from plastic? Silicone’s inertness is the most notable functional difference from plastic, resulting in a substantially more durable product over time. In addition, silicone is more durable and resistant to heat (even in commercial dishwashers!) and chilly than plastic alternatives. There are no estrogen-mimicking pollutants like BPA to cause concern for your family. It is odorless, resistant to stains, hypoallergenic, and has no pores that can harbor pathogens.
So silicone is simply a plastic material?
Not precisely. Like plastic, it is highly malleable, which explains why it can take on a variety of shapes, from rigid structures like phone cases to flexible straws.
Similarly to most polymers, it is transparent, temperature-resistant, and watertight. However, they are not interchangeable; this product is made from very distinct materials than most plastic products.
Unlike single-use plastics, most silicone products are highly recyclable. This makes them an environmentally preferable option. But are they a better decision health-wise too?
What does silicone consist of?
It is composed of both synthetic and chemical components. Silicon is the primary ingredient that distinguishes silicone from conventional plastics.
What exactly is silicon?
Even though it is an element on Earth and in the periodic table, it is difficult to find on its own. Silicon is most commonly found in the form of silicon dioxide, also known as silica sand (or quartz sand). Silicon, which is essentially derived from sand found in the Earth’s crust, is not created naturally and must be manufactured after it is extracted from the Earth in its silica form.
Separating silicon from everything else is a strenuous process that typically requires a carbon-based fuel source to superheat the silicon and remove the oxygen. In this video, Daniel Mance, a QHSE supervisor for Simcoa, a prominent producer of silicon, describes the process.
Hydrocarbons and other substances
After isolating pure silicon, it undergoes a distillation process in which it is mixed with hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds based on the desired final material composition.
Since silicone’s introduction to the market, consumers and eco-conscious minds have debated whether silicone is superior to plastic. The brief answer is absolutely. In a technical sense. Specifically regarding single-use plastics. The lengthier response…perhaps. While the material does not break down into smaller pieces and does not emit toxins when burned, it must still be recycled properly or it will last as long as plastic in a landfill, if not longer.
Does This Indicate That Silicone Is Superior to Plastic? In a nutshell, yes; silicone’s durability and longevity suggest that it is a superior option for the environment and for consumer applications than similar plastic products. Our society’s consumption of plastics is profoundly unsustainable and harmful; fifty percent of plastics are single-use while silicone products are always multi-use and have extended life spans.
As with anything related to sustainability and the environment, the use of silicone is surrounded by controversy. In addition, silicone does not degrade into the toxic microplastics that pollute our environments and pose such grave risks to aquatic life. These high-purity silicone products are typically labeled as such, but they can also be verified by pinching the silicone; a color change to white indicates the presence of chemical additives.
What exactly is silicone?
Let’s begin with the fundamentals: what is silicone and what is it comprised of?
Silicone is a polymer composed of siloxane, a substance similar to rubber. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, the website Chemical Safety Facts has an excellent analysis of the chemistry and specifics on what silicone is and how it is used.
Silicone is not produced from sand, contrary to the widespread belief. There are actually three distinct materials and processes involved in the production of silicone products, which sound and appear similar but have vastly different chemical compositions.
Under severe and protracted stress, silicone can reportedly release siloxanes, the negative effects of which require further investigation. What are the disadvantages of silicone goods?
In addition to its production, the use of silicone has disadvantages, particularly in cookware. Silicone is not completely inert, and there are many cooking materials with a lower level of chemical reactivity, including ceramics and glass.
Is Silicone Material?
Silicone, despite its association with plastic, is a synthetic elastomer. Silicone’s lack of biodegradability and inability to decompose naturally during your lifetime is perhaps its greatest drawback. However, the components of the two materials are distinct. How these two materials are produced and sourced is the most significant distinction (from an ecological standpoint).
While silicone contains a man-made component, plastic is an entirely man-made material that is derived from Earth-extracted resources such as crude oil. Due to its substantial carbon imprint, the method by which this material is obtained is the subject of much controversy.
Plastic is also primarily manufactured for one-time use, with a whopping 40 percent of all plastic being used only once before being discarded.
Conversely, silicone is derived from silica, a naturally occurring substance. Although the heating process used to convert silica to silicon and then to silicone can be environmentally detrimental, it is at least less damaging than the production of plastic.
This means that a substantial quantity of silicone is discarded annually. However, if you look for it, silicone recycling is conceivable, so safe, environmentally-friendly disposal after decades of functional use is feasible. Rubber or plastic?
We’ve observed that silicone is healthier for the environment over its lifetime than a plastic product that performs the same function. And compared to single-use plastics, silicone offers a more sustainable alternative for numerous household items. For example, heating and storing with glass or stainless steel reduces chemical leaching and increases recycling options.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Which material is better silicone or plastic?
The answer to the query of whether or not silicone is a plastic depends on whom you ask. When selecting materials for our products, we always conduct extensive research.