Is Silicone a Plastic

Is Silicone a Plastic

With single use plastic being a big No No, Silicone replacements seem to be a good alternative. But, is Silicone a Plastic ?

The short answer is Yes, it’s a Plastic Polymer, although it may be referred to as a synthetic rubber. However, it’s slightly more complicated than that.

Silicone itself is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and silicon. Note that the ingredient contained within silicone is spelt differently; silicon (no “e”)

The ingredient silicon comes from silica which is derived from sand. And, an interesting fact is that 59% of the Earth’s Crust is silica.

To make silicon large volumes of quartz sand is heated to temperatures as high as 1800˚C.  Then to make Silicone the silicon that has been extracted from silica is passed through hydrocarbons. It’s then mixed with the other chemicals to create silicone.

Have I lost you yet !

Hopefully not but this may help.

Silica:
When people say silicones are made of sand, they are not incorrect, though that’s too simplistic a description. Silica—or silicon dioxide—is what they are referring to. Silica is the raw material used to make silicone resins. Beach sand is practically pure silica, as is quartz.

Silicon:
This is the base element that makes up silica, but silicon is not generally found in nature in this elemental form. It is made by heating silica at very high temperatures with carbon in an industrial furnace.

Silicone (siloxane):
The silicone is then reacted with fossil fuel-derived hydrocarbons to create siloxane monomers that are bonded together into polymers to form the final silicone resin. The quality of these silicones can vary greatly depending on the level of purification. For example, the silicones used to make computer chips are highly purified.

From Silicone Engineering

It should also be noted that Silicone comes in many different forms, such as silicone oil, rubber and resin.

Is Silicone a Plastic

is silicone better than plastic

O.K so now that we know that Silicone is a type of Plastic what makes it any better to use than the plastics we already have?

  • Silicone products will last a very long time and as they are very durable. They don’t break down in the same way as plastics so they wont end up creating microplastics in the ocean.
  • Silicone products can replace single use disposable products.
  • Also, if they are put in the waste and incinerated, silicone reverts back into its harmless ingredients: amorphous silica, carbon dioxide, and water vapour (unlike plastic which releases toxins when burned).
Is Silicone a Plastic

How to dispose of silicone products

When it comes to disposing of Silicone products at the end of their life it can be tricky as they are so durable.

Recycling Silicone Products

Silicone, like plastic, can be downcycled numerous times. However, silicone has to be sent to a specialised recycling company to be properly recycled. I’ve yet to find any in the UK.

Silicone Products in Landfill

Because silicone is so durable, it doesn’t easily biodegrade or decompose. It won’t break down into smaller pieces so it’s less likely to be eaten by fish or wildlife. However, it will stick around for a very long time.

What do i think

Yes silicone products do seem to better for the environment than plastic in some respects.  However, I’m not convinced and for me they are definitely not the answer to plastic and I always look for another alternative.

And, if you do decide to use Silicone products beware of cheap Silicone products as low quality silicone can contain chemical “fillers”.

You can test your silicone products for chemical fillers by pinching and/or twisting a part of the silicone. The general rule is that pure silicone does not change colour at all, so if any white shows through, there may be fillers in your product.

Always choose Food Grade Silicone products if you decide to use them.  But I would always suggest looking at alternatives first, why not check out some of my other Blog Posts including 10 Ways to Reduce Plastic.

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