Silicone products have been dominating people's homes for the past couple of years from food grade silicone, reusable silicone bags to silicone bakeware. These have been produced to replace single use plastic since they are very much alike in appearance, durability, and use sans the harmful environmental impact. In this article, find out why is silicone better than plastic.
What is silicone?
To understand what silicone is, almostzerowaste.com states that there are three similar BUT different substances that are important to understand. These are silica, silicon, and silicone. The article defined these terms as:
Silica: Also known as silicon dioxide, is the raw material used to make silicone resin. Beach sand is pure silica.
Silicon: The base element that makes silica by heating it at very high temperatures with carbon in an industrial furnace. It is not found in nature in this form.
Silicone (siloxane): After the silicon is heated, it is reacted with fossil fuel to create silicone resin.
Thus, silicone is the final product when silica is heated and have been reacted with fossil fuel such as oil and natural gas.
How do Silicone and Plastic differ from each other?
What is great about silicone is that they have many similarities with the good qualities of plastic without the harmful impact to the environment. The similarities between silicone and plastic are:
challenging to recycle
Generally, silicone can be moulded into a variety of shapes, is highly durable, and capable of withstanding both high and low temperatures. However similar, silicone and plastic differ from each other where it matters most.
Silicone is made from a hybrid material
Unlike plastic that's primarily made from petroleum-based material, silicone is made from a combination of natural resources and non-renewable material. It is primarily made from silica, a naturally abundant and readily available source. Thus in terms of resource extraction, silicone is a better choice than plastic.
Silicone is reusable
Another great disparity with plastic is silicone can be used numerous times and is still safe to use. If cared for properly, it won't harden, crack, peel, crumble, dry out, rot or become brittle over time. This is why reusable silicone bags have been commonly used as an alternative to plastic bags.
Silicone lasts for many years
Due to its durability and flexibility, silicone could last for many years and does not need to be replaced very often. In fact, it endures for decades unchanged. Because of this characteristic, it generates less waste than plastic.
Silicone is ocean, food, and planet safe
Plastic is known to contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals and BPA while Silicone does not. This is why silicone products are ocean, food, and planet safe. It resists degradation of the sun and sea, is comprised of primarily inert silicone and oxygen, and most importantly, would not degrade into microfragments in our oceans. In fact, when silicone is placed into a high temperature environment, it simply reverts back into its harmless ingredients: amorphous silica, carbon dioxide, and water vapor (unlike plastic which releases toxins when burned).
Kinds of Eco-friendly, Everyday Silicone Products
Through the years, silicone has been used in various industries. Starting from the aerospace industry used as protection in electrical sparking equipment in airplanes and now in everyday items. Common silicone products found in the household are:
1. Silicone Bag
Anyone who has owned a refrigerator would know how wasteful using plastic freezer bags can get especially when groceries commonly use single use plastic freezer bags to store frozen goods. The good news is, consumers, can now use reusable silicone bags to store their food since they are freezer safe and made from food grade silicone that does not have estrogen-mimicking chemicals that could harm users. Next time you do grocery shopping, you may opt to use reusable silicone bags to place frozen products in.
2. Silicone Straw
More and more restaurants have opted to discontinue the use of a plastic straw in their stores in their efforts to reduce plastic pollution. The coffee giant, Starbucks, announced that they will phase out plastic straws by 2020. While the earth is happy with this, there are times that people need to use straws. The good news is, there are silicone straws in the market today that are durable, flexible, reusable, and available in different colors too!
3. Silicone cookware
Silicone cookware is heat-resistant, freezer safe, and oven safe up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit or 220 Celsius. It is a great alternative to plastic cooking utensils which contain chemicals that leach into the body, even moreso when heated. Plastics may contain BPA, Pthalate, Benzene, and other harmful chemicals that may cause illnesses. In a Black Plastic study conducted by Andrew Turner, he was able to discover the different hazardous chemicals found in black plastic. He discovered:
Chromium is carcinogenic, irritates the respiratory tract when inhaled, but when ingested can cause problems in the stomach and small intestines (gut health), ulcers, damage to sperm, miscarriages, low birth weight, etc.
Brominated flame retardants are hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, advanced puberty and reduced fertility.
Chlorine is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract when ingested
PVC is a carcinogen and hormone-disrupting chemical that also likely contains phthalates and is linked with obesity and sperm damage, among various cancers
Cadmium is a neurotoxin and hormone-disrupting chemical linked to reduced fertility, damage to the central nervous system, damage to the immune system, psychological disorders, and cancers.
Mercury is a neurotoxin and hormone-disrupting chemical linked to damage in cognitive impairment, loss of memory, poor attention span, language development & fine motor skills, visual-spatial skills, reduced fertility, mood swings, skin rashes or dermatitis, muscle weakness, etc.
Lead is a carcinogen and hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage, reduced fertility, behavioral issues like poor impulse control & violence, lowering of the IQ, miscarriages, stillbirths, etc.
Antimony is suspected to be a carcinogen and causes irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs when inhaled, but is more troublesome with fertility causing miscarriages & stillbirths. Long-term inhalation of antimony can potentiate pneumoconiosis, altered electrocardiograms, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers.
4. Silicone Sleeves for Mason Jars
Paving the way for an easier and safer transition from bottle to glass jars are silicone sleeves to protect mason jars from breaking. Teaching kids to drink from mason jars are now easy with silicone sleeves that serve as protection from breakage. It is a great alternative to plastic vessels such as plastic bottles, cups, and containers. Aside from this, using mason jars with silicone sleeves is eco-conscious and non-toxic compared to using plastic cups which are ridden with harmful chemicals.
If you are considering switching to mason jars, minliving produces mason jar silicone sleeves, available in different sizes and fun colors! They are 100% non-toxic, phthalate-free, plastic-free, BPA/BPS-free, and are made with premium-grade silicone. It is convenient and practical to use since they are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. For more info, you can check out minliving silicone sleeves here.